Economic Justice

WHP has long been neglected in terms of development, as evidenced by its old housing stock, many vacant residential and storefront lots, no major places of employment, and few local businesses. Currently the community suffers from lack of opportunities in employment and affordable housing, the unemployment rate in our community prior to recession was 14% and close to 75% of residents income is spent on housing. Blocks Together is committed to advocating for more resources in affordable, employment and job training. Our goal is to impact policy and practices around resource allocation of public funds for more direct benefit in the community around critical employment and housing needs.

Housing and Economic Justice Committee

BT is committed to advocating for more resources in affordable housing, employment and job training. Our goal is to impact policy and practices around resource allocation of public funds and goods for more direct benefit in the community around critical employment and housing needs. BT members long term goal in our Housing Economic Justice (HEJ) committee is to make Tax Increment Financing and other tax credit resources be allocated through demonstrated direct benefit of funds for the current community’s needs and to mandate community involvement in the process to ensure equity. To learn more about BT’s work in reforming Tax Increment Financing you can download our TIF Toolkit Report.

Blocks Together has  been the first organization to support a PB process with Tax Increment Financing Funds. It was a long journey in creating more transparency and direct benefit. Here is a timeline of this work:

imeline of Blocks Together’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Reform Campaign

2008 – BT’s Housing Committee began participatory action research around school closures and the intersection with Tax Increment Financing dollars. From here the Housing Committee created a long term agenda to bring more transparency and direct benefit from the local TIF and organized the first town hall meeting around the Chicago Central Park TIF.

2009 – BT members worked on a campaign to use Chicago Central Park TIF funds to bring an affordable housing development into the community with a community developer.

2010 – BT and Westside United members created a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) for the project but the developer refused to sign. From here BT and Westside United members wanted to require CBA’s with public funds used in the community.

2011 – The Chicago Central Park TIF was underestimated and residents worked with the City’s Department of Planning to reallocate funds into community informed budget line items such as increasing funds for job training and daycare services.

2013 – BT staff and members work with the Participatory Budget (PB) project and University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute to learn how to use PB in the community. Members also visited other wards in Chicago and other organizations throughout the country.

2014 – Alderman Walter Burnett commits to using the $2 million in TIF funds from the canceled development to the PB process!

July 1st BT along with Alderman Burnett, other city representatives and community residents had a successful and informative Town Hall Meeting.

Blocks Together’s long term work on Tax Increment Financing reform was recently highlighted in a co-authored report with Participatory Budget Group, and the Great Cities Institute. The report is a community friendly toolkit that shares lessons learned on the journey of Blocks Together winning $2 million in community voted projects for the West Humboldt Park community. The report can also be found here. In addition to the release of the report, a new documentary on Participatory Budget in the United States and BT’s work was highlighted in the documentary as well as on Chicago Tonight.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor