10 times more!?
The statistics are staggering. According to the 2016 Consumer Science Survey, the average household net worth for white families ($171,000) in our country is 10 times more than that of black families ($17,000). In the Chicagoland metro area, 73% of white families own their home, compared with 44% of black families. In our predominantly black neighborhood of Woodlawn, only 24% of residents own their homes, while 76% are renters.
In order to more fully understand how we arrived at a place of such inequity, we must take a look back at the number of systems and unjust practices and processes that have contributed to the disparity. After the Civil War in 1865, the U.S. Government promised formerly enslaved people 40 acres and a mule to provide for their families and have assets on which to build independent futures . However, Andrew Johnson, President Lincoln’s predecessor, immediately overturned the order, so most families only had the option to sharecrop. Families were barely able to make ends meet with this exploitative system, much less build enough savings to purchase any land or build assets to pass on to their children. Jim Crow laws, segregation, unequal access to jobs, unequal voting rights, and lack of accessible and quality education continued to impede black families’ ability to build wealth and assets.
Fast forward to 1933 in Chicago. From 1933 to 1968 (when the Fair Housing Act was passed) blacks were systematically denied the ability to invest in property, while whites could build equity in homes, and subsequent wealth. In 1940, there was the famous Hansberry v. Lee case which dealt with a racially restrictive covenant that barred African Americans from purchasing or leasing land in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The plaintiff Carl Augustus Hansberry (father of Lorraine Hansberry) won his case. However, despite the Supreme Court victory, Lorraine Hansberry, famous play write and writer, believed her father never recovered from his struggle against racial segregation. In spite of his victory, black families in communities like Woodlawn suffered the impact of the policy of redlining, white flight (and associated disinvestment), and segregation, which came to define America. Segregation costs communities greatly – both in real dollars and the resulting concentration of poverty.
As Executive Director Kimberly Salley stepped into her role with Sunshine, she brought with her firsthand knowledge of unjust housing practices and her passion to advocate for black families. “The desire to own your own home and have housing security is something every person needs and desires – it’s a part of the ‘American dream’. However, for African Americans it has not been a part of our legacy here in America. Homeownership is fundamental to family stability, health, and generational wealth creation.”
In Woodlawn, we’ve watched increasing home prices drive out middle income families, preventing residents from owning assets within their own community. Growing interest in our community as well as pandemic spurred unemployment and inflation has exacerbated the crisis of housing insecurity. In early 2021,Kimberly began conversations with a few key community stakeholders. She also surveyed Sunshine families about their current state of housing (housing insecurity, renters, owners). By September, the Housing Equity Initiative (HEI) was born. HEI has 3 areas of emphasis: retention, homeownership, and neighborhood revitalization aimed at empowering our neighbors in building assets for their families while investing in their community.
In Fall of 2021, ahead of the Tax Year 2018 Cook County Property Tax Sale, which occurred November 5, 2021, we began canvassing the neighborhood, making contact with families who were in crisis and who might lose their homes in that sale. With the benevolence of a generous Sunshine donor and the support of the Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ Office, Sunshine was able to successfully help 7 families retain their homes by paying their property tax arrears, and are still working 5 others toward the same end. Our partnership with The BLOCK Movement affords these families one year of workshops (budgeting, homeownership essentials, etc.) and coaching (exemption applications, assessment challenges, estate planning, etc.) to shore up best practices and disciplines for successful homeownership. Sunshine is preparing to help more families in May of 2022 with homes on the Tax Year 2019 Cook County Property Tax Sale List.
Homeownership and Neighborhood Revitalization………..
As Sunshine met families and continued to meet with community members, the need for affordable housing options and a desire for home ownership opportunities became more apparent. In response, Sunshine looks to acquire abandoned properties throughout this year in order to rehabilitate and sell to families at an affordable price in light of Woodlawn’s median income. We also plan to acquire vacant land for building new homes, thereby contributing to more community investment and revitalization. Through our partnership with The BLOCK Movement, we offer financial literacy courses that help families save, repair credit (if needed), apply for mortgages and acquire down payment assistance.
Just as our call in Micah 6:8 is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly,our desire is to do our part to help adjust the inequities in our community. We hope you’ll join us in continuing this calling! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kimberly or Trenton Blythe with questions, thoughts, or a desire to partner with us in this work.
Collaborative Partners: Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, The BLOCK Movement
Community Partners: PNC Foundation, CIC, NHS,