The More Things Change
Produced by David Rivera
The impact of gentrification can be displacement. Rising property taxes in the Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood are forcing longtime residents to sell their homes.
WTTW's cameras first interviewed Teresa Fraga two decades ago when she and her husband Refugio had just bought a house in Pilsen. Both are now American citizens: Teresa is a schoolteacher; Refugio draws a pension from his days working construction. They have raised six children and five grandchildren in their house.
The home the Fraga family bought for $22,000 in 1981 is now worth $220,000. The Fragas don't want to sell, but they fear, eventually, they may have to. Teresa told us: "Some of our neighbors won't be able to afford to live here, including us. We're in danger. I can see us living here maybe five or ten more years. But I don't know if Refugio can afford to pay the taxes. And it would be sad to sell it, and it would be sad to finally have to move. There's nothing wrong with moving out if that is by your choice, because you want to do it. See, the issue for me, for my family, is not about having a home that has a lot of value. It's about a community. You can't take that with you when you move out."
Danny Solis, who represents Pilsen's 25th Ward in the City Council, says people in the neighborhood are "afraid that they're going to be pushed out of the neighborhood, that there is some sort of a conspiracy between the corporate sector and the city leaders. And if they are very confident in talking to me, they say that myself and the mayor and the corporations are trying to take this area to become a white, gentrified, yuppie area. And I basically tell them, 'you've been misinformed.' I believe this community can be the best Mexican-American community in the Midwest, representing the culture, the tradition, the language, the food. And that's my agenda or vision."
But the catch-22 of gentrification is: the more a neighborhood improves, the less affordable it becomes for residents.
Links of Interest
Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement
The Voorhees Center provides technical assistance and research needs requested by community organizations and coalitions in the Chicago area.
The Resurrection Project
Founded in 1990 by a coalition of Pilsen churches, The Resurrection Project's mission is to build relationships and challenge people to act on their faith and values to create healthy communities.