Some of author Richard Wright’s most famous works, such as Native Son, are set in Chicago. He moved here in 1927, at the age of nineteen, but it wasn’t until two years later that Wright was able to afford a home with space for his writing: a four-room apartment in a two-flat at 4831 South Vincennes Avenue.
A little over two weeks ago, a group of tenants and activists gathered outside the Germano Millgate Housing Complex, at the corner of 89th and Burley, to protest the living conditions inside. A union organizer brought along Scabby, the inflatable seven-foot rat with beady red eyes used to shame workers who cross the picket line during a strike. That day, Scabby was doing double-duty as stand-in for Anthony Fusco, owner of Germano Millgate and object of the tenants’ ire. They said Fusco had failed to maintain basic standards of living. Black mold was growing in the bathrooms. Tenants would buy new clothes to replace the ones rats and mice chewed through and strip the beds every morning to stop the same thing from happening to their sheets.
Chicago has an urban flooding problem. The latest report on this issue, released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in March, found that climate change in the Great Lakes will result in an increase in “extreme precipitation,” heavy rainfalls that are more likely to lead to flooding. This report is only the latest in a series that have sought to quantify the problem of urban flooding in Chicago, and its disproportionate impact on the South Side. In the wake of this report’s release, the Weekly went through literature on urban flooding, and pulled out the most important numbers that describe the problem.
It’s a few minutes after noon, and families are still trickling in through the large wooden doors of St. Adalbert Church in Pilsen. Young and old are quietly making their way through the pews. A Kimball organ, one of the largest pipe organs in the Midwest, plays its final notes from the upper floor as Father Michael Enright and Deacon Juan Dominguez begin the introductory rites for mass.
The first thing to understand is that an eviction filing is not an eviction order. Think of an eviction filing like an arrest—a legal action that in no way indicates guilt. An eviction order, on the other hand, is the result of a court’s decision in favor of the landlord who filed the eviction. Thousands of evictions are filed in Cook County every year, and yet over one third do not result in an eviction order.
In February, the Hyde Park Herald reported that 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King had floated the idea of forming a community land trust in Bronzeville. Created in partnership with GN Bank, the land trust would provide a way for nonprofits to cheaply acquire and develop vacant lots in Bronzeville. “We’re not [averse] to developers developing, but we want to make sure that money stays in the community first and we harness the equity that’s in the land,” she said. (When reached for comment, King’s office said the proposal is still in its early stages.)
This year, nearly a quarter-century after the federal government first took over the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), the agency charged with housing the poorest Chicagoans will finally complete the goal it set in the early days after that takeover. The goal, outlined in CHA’s Plan for Transformation, was to build or renovate 25,000 new units of affordable housing.
In the middle of a beautiful—if unassuming—area of Beverly sit two relics from one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most important projects. Before the Guggenheim, before Fallingwater, the master architect was trying to tackle a more pervasive issue: affordable housing. “I would rather solve the small house problem than build anything else I can think of,” Wright commented in the January 1938 issue of Architectural Forum.
This spring, City Council could consider lifting the ban on “accessory dwelling units” in Chicago. Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are a form of apartment most commonly seen in Chicago’s neighborhoods as coach houses behind a bigger house (also called rear houses if the main building doesn’t have a garage). Other types include attic and basement apartments. They’re known as “granny flats” and “laneway houses” in other cities.
About a month ago, while digging up the ground under the Illinois Institute of Technology’s S.R. Crown Hall in Bronzeville to repair the school’s steam tunnels, maintenance workers uncovered some unexpected remnants of the neighborhood’s past. The artifacts, displayed for a one-day exhibition at Crown Hall this month, included ceramic tiles and stone pathways, along with a random assortment of everyday objects: a busted thermometer, glazed clay Bennington marbles, and a dirt-caked silver fork inscribed with the word “Toffenetti.”