Community Dining is a local organization that facilitates dinner events that promote the importance of sustainability and health in food. These events are unique because they allow for attendees to socialize in community spaces and frequently meet local decision makers. I was planning to discuss more of the ‘community dining’ aspect, but decided that the issue of gentrification is critical. Last night, I attended my first Community Dining event: “Discussion of Gentrification and Dinner with Alderman Joe Moreno” in Logan Square. As an individual who was born and raised in Chicago, I was pleasantly surprised to see such a large turnout. I also heard some great ideas from both the event attendees as well as Alderman Moreno regarding the development of affordable housing. The first idea, would be to allocate additional funds to house individuals experiencing homelessness both to provide community aid (housing is a human rights issue) as well as to support infrastructure. Another strong idea that was presented was to give incentives to landlords who keep their properties at an affordable rate (even when the area’s property values rise).
Overall, I wish there would have been more time to discuss gentrification in-depth (as this was the topic of the night). More specifically, I think more space needed to be created to engage with the significant gentrification issues that have been the topic of discussion for long-time anti-gentrification activists. For example, one topic that was not discussed at length was Pennycuff, an affordable housing complex that has been advertised as being LGBTQI+ friendly. Instead of simply discussing this one apartment complex, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois should focus efforts on expanding and enforcing housing discrimination policies that make discrimination based upon race, religion, disability, familial status, national origin, and sexual orientation illegal. Currently, this is not the case in regards to legislation. Finally, it’s also important to note that although Alderman Moreno may have many criticisms, at least he is creating awareness and participating in ‘public’ dialogue regarding the issue of gentrification — I would like to see other prominent Aldermen and Alderwomen engage with controversial issues.
The questions I am still curious about:
- What do you do on a day to day as an Alderman to implement strategies to prevent unjust gentrification? Specifically, tactics and actions (grassroots or legislative)?
- How do you conceptualize, intersectionality in regards to gentrification, and more importantly how do you implement intersectionality within your policies?
- What are your past and current gentrification-focused policies?
- If you find gentrification as a positive to community building, why do you suppose many community members across the city of Chicago believe it to be a negative aspect of community building?
- What is your opinion on the scholarly and activist idea that there is a connection between gentrification tactics and neo-colonialism?