Photo Courtesy of PIlsen Alliance and Lift the Ban Coalition
In early August, organizers with the Lift the Ban (LBC) Coalition set up an encampment outside of the Richard J. Daley Center. At the time, the state was just days away from the eviction moratorium expiring where it was estimated that there would be close to 762,000 households evicted in Illinois. The direct action, which organizers called “Pritzkerville,” was meant to symbolize the eviction avalanche.
As part of Governor Pritzker’s emergency orders surrounding COVID-19, Pritzker halted evictions for unpaid rent and mortgages in Illinois. Landlords would not be able to evict tenants affected by the pandemic without negotiating with them first. The moratorium was extended over the summer, in large part because of the Coalition’s advocacy and direct actions. Shortly after the encampment the moratorium was extended again and is now set to expire on September 22, 2020. The moratorium does not, however, exempt tenants from still paying rent, which advocates argue should be forgiven since many individuals have lost employment because of the pandemic.
“There was an almost three month stay-at-home order. People could not go into work. People should not be accountable for their rent during that time,” says Roderick Wilson, executive director at Lugenia Burns Hope Center, an organization that develops the civic engagement of residents in Bronzeville and other communities, through education, leadership development and community organizing. The Center is also a member of the Coalition.
The Lift the Ban Coalition (LBC) has been working on housing issues since before the pandemic. It formed in 2016 in response to the displacement of families because of increased rents. The Coalition identified rent control as a policy tool to stabilize the rental housing market where a majority of the city’s Black and Latinx renters are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. LBC has more than 30 supporting organizations and some of the member organizations include: Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Lugenia Burns Hope Center, Northside Action for Justice, Pilsen Alliance, ONE Northside and Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. Now pivoting to address the eviction crisis, the Coalition’s goals are threefold: lift the ban on rent control, extend the eviction moratorium, and cancel rent and mortgage payments.
A goal of the Field Foundation’s Justice portfolio is to support organizations examining the root causes of systemic issues and pushing for just solutions. One of those systemic issues is housing insecurity, which disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income residents on the south and west sides. The impending renters’ crisis also highlights long-standing issues with housing affordability in Chicago, especially among communities of color. According to research led by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, “In Chicago, the declining supply of affordable units led to a growing affordability gap, despite declines in overall demand for affordable units. Since 2012, demand for affordable units has declined by 8.9 percent while the supply of affordable units has declined by 15 percent.”
In addition to a limited supply of affordable housing, renters who have lost income or employment and are unable to cover rent have limited options without government interventions. Activists have identified housing solutions long before the pandemic and they are bringing urgent solutions to the table right now. The Obama Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, for example, has organized to ensure the Obama Presidential Center in Woodlawn will not displace families from their homes.
After more than five years of campaigning, the Coalition recently reached a compromise agreement with Mayor Lightfoot on a Woodlawn Housing Ordinance designed to protect residents who live near the Obama Presidential Center from displacement.
This is just one example of the powerful outcome of persistent organizing for, by and about Black Chicagoans that could help prevent displacement many long-time residents fear.
In the absence of rental and housing protections advocates are putting forward, the question for decision makers, amidst a global pandemic that has impacted the African American and Latinx populations at higher rates, remains: without stable housing, how can individuals and families shelter in place?
“We’re in the middle of a health crisis. We don’t need to go into another housing crisis,” Wilson said.
Without protections for renters, including a permanent moratorium on evictions, rent control, and rent relief, many residents will continue to face housing instability. Housing is a human right that should be accessible for all people.
Justice Program Officer
The Field Foundation seeks to level the playing field across Chicago by using Field Foundation dollars to address the root causes of inequity, be it in community environment, health, housing or other issue areas. Rather than funding direct service, we will fund organizations working to address problems at a systemic and policy level. Learn more about the program here.
Field Summer Reading List
A Collection of Selections from the Field Team
The Field Foundation leadership team is often asked for guidance and tapped for input and expertise on issues deeply connected to our program areas of Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. Now, with renewed fervor for examination and dialogue in the upheaval year that 2020 has been, books on race/social justice/politics and political movements, as well as literary, artistic & other creative endeavors are urgently in the forefront. New and old releases by Black authors — fiction and nonfiction — have flooded the New York Times bestseller list.
Right now there is a hunger for more knowledge, more clarity, more understanding. As a result, we compiled and began posting the Field Summer Reading List on our Instagram page, featuring some of our team’s current and all-time favorites — some of their most influential titles. Visit our Instagram page to see their full commentary on all of these selections, which are listed here:
Angelique Power, President
1919 by Eve Ewing
Crossing California by Adam Langer
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Chicago From the Depression to the Millennium: A Black Perspective by Vernon B. Williams III (Angelique’s late father)
Lolly Bowean, Media & Storytelling Program Officer
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Tempestt Hazel, Art Program Officer
Too Much Midnight by Krista Franklin
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
Hilesh Patel, Leadership Investment Program Officer
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda
When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen
Kim Van Horn
Managing Director, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
2002-2013 Field Program Officer
What do you carry with you today from your time at Field?
“Spending time in communities I did not know, learning histories I was never taught, listening to people share life experiences that were different than my own — has profoundly shaped me personally and professionally. I learned that most of philanthropy’s biggest missteps stem from not understanding the complexity and diversity of issues and communities and failing to include those most affected by issues in generating and executing solutions.”