Chicago residents living in close proximity to where Obama’s Presidential Center will be constructed as a monument to the former President have revealed why it is destroying their lives.
The monument, which will house his presidential papers, will supposedly “create jobs and drive economic opportunity,” according to its official website.
However, the Center has come at a huge cost to local residents, who say they are being pushed out of their neighborhood.
“This is the community that sent him to the White House, and we should be the community that gets to stay and benefit from the presidential center,” said Dixon Romeo, founder of the community organization Not Me We, according to The Washington Post.
“We’re not against the center, but we are against gentrification. We are against displacement,” Romeo said.
“Our demands show there’s a way to have the Center without having displacement — or at least policies in place to mitigate it. Right now there are none,” he said.
According to The Post, a recent referendum called for the city to ensure affordable housing around the Obama’s presidential center.
But it appears the opposite is happening.
80-year-old Chicago resident Michele Williams expressed despair about what was happening to her neighborhood.
“The Obama Center is not being built for Chicago,” she said at a recent community meeting. “It’s being built for the world.”
Those people “don’t want us here. So what do you think is going to happen?” she said.
The Obama Foundation’s executive vice president for civic engagement, Michael Strautmanis, said the foundation want to make everyone happy.
“Our hope and intention is that the people who live there now are able to enjoy the center when it comes online,” Strautmanis said. “There is an opportunity for this to be a success story.”
However, after some digging, WaPo found median rents in three zip codes around the center soared by 43 percent since just before the site’s announcement in 2015.
Home values have soared by a whopping 130 percent in the area
According to the Illinois Answers Project, almost a third of the homes bought at the end of 2022 were by investors looking to cash in on the price surge.
“With a development of this size and economic impact, it was unavoidable that it would have a profound effect on the local housing market and exacerbate existing affordability challenges for many low-income residents of Woodlawn and South Shore,” said William Sites, a professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the nearby University of Chicago.
“The evidence was pretty clear that even before the groundbreaking, early on in the predevelopment process, housing values were rising quite dramatically in both Woodlawn and South Shore,” he continued.
One Twitter user noted black how residents are paying the price, which is “literally the perfect representation of Obama’s entire political career.”
Resident Tahiti Hamer, who rents in the area, knows how that feels.
In 2021, her rent rose 40 percent after the center broke ground.
“She said, ‘Oh, you know, the area is changing. My taxes have gone up. So, that’s it, then. I’m a working mother who can’t afford to live in my own community that I’ve lived in for 42 years,'” Hamer stated.
“What these community members are asking for is merely that they have a chance to stay in the community once the conditions many of them have suffered through, in some cases for generations, begin to change,” Sites said.
“Unfortunately, they’ve started to change not because the people who live there are, on their own, deserving of investment and opportunity, but because outside investors have determined that these are places they want to develop,” he said.