Chicago to Sell City-Owned Vacant Lots in Englewood Neighborhood for $1
Chicago to Sell City-Owned Vacant Lots in Englewood Neighborhood for $1

Newsflash:  You can buy a vacant lot on Chicago’s South Side for $1!

On Thursday, the Chicago Plan Commission unveiled a plan to allow qualified residents to purchase vacant city-owned lots in the Englewood neighborhood for $1. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “It’s designed to move vacant properties out of the city’s hands and into private ownership.””People can use the land to expand the yards around their homes, to create gardens on their block, or for beautification, housing, or for other purposes.”

Um, one hitch…..

The Large Lots program only allows you to buy if you live on the same block as the property you wish to purchase. The goal of the initiative is to target investment in areas that have experienced “a crippled housing market, lack of employment opportunities and many years of population decline.”

Englewood has been at the forefront of all the above factors. In 2012, the majority of the 500 Chicago homicides, occurred in Englewood.  Further, the Chicago Reader calculated that 42% of Englewood residents lived in poverty in 2012. The homicide rate of 48 per 100,000 residents:

Poverty in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood
Poverty in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood (Image Credit: The Chicago Reader)

Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America. Ninety-nine percent of Englewood’s population is black. There’s a strong correlation between race, poverty and violence but that shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone since Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America. Add government neglect to the mix and you’ll see why Englewood is in the mess it’s in today. Discrimination in housing, employment and education has led to the creation of geographic areas in which poverty, gun violence, drug addiction and abuse are permitted to thrive. Steve Bogira writes: “If you want children to become violent in their teens and early 20s, these are the right ingredients.” So, selling these lots for $1 won’t cure what ails Englewood and other similar neighborhoods.

Segregation in Chicago:

Chicago remains one of most segregated cities in the US
Chicago remains one of most segregated cities in the US [KEY: Red = white people; blue = blacks; orange = Hispanic & green = Asian] (Credit: Business Insider)
Recent statistics show homicides are down in the Windy City but the success of the $1 property programs in other cities, such as Warren, Mich., and Milwaukee, Wis., are debatable. Jeffrey Lubell, director of housing initiatives for a public policy and business research firm called ABT Associates, told the Huffington Post that such initiatives are mostly unsuccessful, “unless the scale … and intervention and investment from a city is significant.”

Concerns have been raised over Chicago’s $1 program, particularly about the money needed to these lots. That’s something most residents of Englewood don’t have. The real question now is who will buy these lots? Not sure we’ll see them create anything amazing from this scheme.