DIY spaces and gentrification

About the map

This is a map of Chicago community areas, the number of DIY spaces in each area, and the socioeconomic state of the neighborhood based on an index developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The index used statistical changes in factors like median family income, percentage of families below the poverty level, median house value, percent owner-occupied housing, race/ethnicity, percent of school age children, percent of workers who are managers and professionals and percent of adults with a college education to describe how Chicago neighborhoods had changed over time.

The numbers in the markers represent the number of DIY spaces in the community area.

The shading of the community areas represents the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood:

Dark Gray Moderate decline
Light Gray Mild decline
Green Gentrification
Purple Poverty
Mint Green Positive Change

DIY punk and gentrification

DIY punk spaces are often located in less resourced neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods offer less expensive rent that is affordable even with income from sporadic part-time work or odd jobs, housing stock that might accommodate many roommates or unused warehouse space that can be converted to a music venue and living space.  Neighborhoods housing DIY spaces may feature lower density housing which makes it easier to have band practice or shows without disturbing neighbors or empty lots that could be utilized for projects like community gardens.  In some cases, people participating in the DIY punk subculture may fetishize less resourced neighborhoods, or neighborhoods with a large population of people from racial or ethnic minority groups as a reaction to white, suburban culture or a more affluent urban (“yuppie”) culture.

Daniel Traber’s article, “L.A.’s “White Minority”: Punk and the Contradictions of Self-Marginalization”, describes the fetishizing of poverty in the early days of American punk and hardcore culture in Los Angeles.  Contemporary DIY culture complicates this dynamic.  With community and social justice as core values of the subculture, middle-class DIY subcultural participants may create institutions in their neighborhood for their friends that are also available assets for the community at large.  Punks may create a neighborhood community garden, a collective bicycle workshop or an arts space with free events for neighborhood children.  However, these institutions, and even the presence of white, middle-class residents, may also make the neighborhood more appealing to other middle-class people and to developers creating housing speculating that more affluent residents will move to the neighborhood.  Over time, both the punks and the neighborhood’s original residents may be priced out of the neighborhood.  Furthermore, the conversion of industrial or warehouse space to housing, art studios, or gallery and performance spaces removes light industrial infrastructure that could create needed jobs in a neighborhood.

Where are DIY spaces located in Chicago?

I mapped all music venues that held events listed on the DIY Chicago calendar from the calendar’s inception in January 2010 to April 2010.  These spaces were located in neighborhoods such as Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Bridgeport.  I mapped the community areas, boundaries used to aggregate census data, containing DIY spaces as well as the number of spaces in each area.

Do Chicago DIY spaces follow trajectories of gentrification?

In 2003, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago created an index of neighborhood change based on census data from the decennial census from 1970-2000.  The index looked at a number of factors such as total population, the percentage of population of different racial groups, median family income and percentage of the population with different educational levels.  Based on how these factors changed in neighborhoods relative to the city as a whole, the researchers labeled the neighborhoods as experiencing dynamics such as poverty, mild decline, gentrification and positive change.

Neighborhoods with DIY spaces tended to be in neighborhoods that were gentrifying or in decline.  While the research is based on data from the 2000 census, 2010 projections from EASI, provided by the Metro Chicago Information Center show that the median family incomes in all of the community areas are likely to increase from 2000-2010.  This suggests that trajectories of gentrification detected in 2000 are likely to have continued or neighborhoods may be starting to gentrify.

What does this mean?

It is difficult to assess whether the effect of DIY punk spaces and residents on a neighborhood is positive or negative.

A recent National Public Radio story about a low rate of census return in a gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood sparked debate about whether or not the young, itinerant  creative-class residents felt less connected to the neighborhood and were thus less likely to return their census forms.  If this is the case, neighborhoods could be deprived of valuable federal funding for community resources.

On the other hand, the Chicago’s 49th Ward which includes the Rogers Park neighborhood, home to one long-time house that has shows in its basement, recently conducted a participatory budgeting process where all residents of the ward, aged 16 and older, could vote on how around $1 million in city menu money could be spent.  Many of the proposed projects reflected grassroots, creative culture in the neighborhood.  The process offers one model where DIY priorities might be institutionalized and still effect the culture of the neighborhood, even as demographics change.

Ultimately, it may be whether or not DIY spaces and the people who inhabit them stay in the neighborhood that decides their impact as the neighborhood changes.

Asian-American groups weigh in on state redistricting process

Asian-American groups are pleased with Illinois Senate approval of a constitutional amendment to change a redistricting process that has split the community’s political power. But they haven’t stopped their advocacy yet.

Group representatives had testified Monday in Springfield  before the State Senate Redistricting Committee, which  passed the proposed measure Monday, and the full Senate approved the amendment Wednesday.

CW Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community who testified before the committee, said he endorsed the measure, championed by State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), because it included language protecting the interests of minority communities.

The amendment, if approved by state referendum, would “provide racial and language minorities who constitute less than a voting-age majority of a district with an opportunity to control or substantially influence the outcome of an election.”

Chan said the expanding Chinese-American community that now includes 59 contiguous precincts on the city’s Near South Side has been particularly hard hit by past redistricting.  While community organizing efforts increased the number of registered voters from 2,000 to 6,000 in the past 10 years, Chan said, the political power of these voters has been diluted by redistricting.

“We’re scattered all over the place,” Chan said, “We would like all of these voters to be included in the same district.”

Rebecca Shi, a community organizer with the Chinese American Service League, said the Chinese-American community in the Chinatown, Bridgeport and McKinley Park neighborhoods is split between four city wards, four state representative districts, three state senate districts and three U.S. congressional districts.  As a result, Shi said, elected officials can’t be held accountable.

“Any problem that we face, we have to go to multiple legislators,” Chan said. He cited an overcrowded public library, a shortage of recreational facilities and long waiting lists for subsidized housing as community concerns that had been neglected by elected officials.

Ami Gandhi, legal director of the Asian American Institute, also testified about  her concerns with the current redistricting process and its impact on Chicago’s Asian-American community.  The process, Gandhi said, “lends itself to politicians picking their voters rather than voters picking their representatives.”

While the institute is still evaluating the ramifications of the Senate measure, Gandhi said, “It is definitely a step in the right direction for minority voting rights.”

Gandhi said the institute is advocating for redistricting reforms that would include greater protection for minority communities that make up less than 50 percent of an area to elect the candidate of their choice.  The institute would also like to see more  hearings about proposed maps to allow more community input on the redistricting process, Gandhi said.  Removing a requirement that two state house districts be nested in a senate district would give map drawers greater flexibility to reflect the needs of communities, she said.

Gandhi said the institute was working with non-Asian-American communities to ensure that redistricting changes that would benefit Asian-Americans  would not harm other communities.  Still, she said, Asian-American communities may have different needs than other groups who share political districts, citing the need for multilingual and culturally relevant social services as an example.

Chan said a meeting with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was planned for Saturday to encourage House passage. Chan said his goal was to help the legislature know about his community’s situation: “Recognizing the problem is the first step to rectifying it.”

Read the text of the state redistricting amendment

Originally published April 15, 2010 as “Asian-American groups weigh in on state redistricting process” at Medill Reports.

Counting on you

West Ridge community organizers and census representatives hope community members can get everyone counted

To get to the census workshop, attendees must first be buzzed into the building and directed to the library, past the school children lingering in the hallway.

Inside the library, chairs have been hastily arranged into a wide ‘U’ and the tables commandeered, one to hold coffee, doughnuts, and fruit and another covered with literature in a variety of languages. Despite the snow and slush outside, more than a dozen people have trickled into the room, piling their winter coats on the back of their chairs, as inspirational music plays from a promotional video looping in the background.

School children linger at the room’s window, peering curiously inside, perhaps trying to figure out why these people, mostly women, some accompanied by young children, are sitting quietly as Nathan Taylor speaks in front of a portable projection screen.

Taylor, a partnership specialist for the Chicago Regional Census Center works with community organizers like Aga Kusmierz, with Organization of the North East, to get community members to complete their census forms, which they’ll receive in the middle of March, to make sure the community receives its fair share of funding.

“How much is distributed every year, based on the census counts?” Taylor asks.  A members of the audience murmur in response, “four hundred billion dollars.”  The first woman to respond is given a prize, a tote bag emblazoned with the United States Census 2010 logo.

After Taylor finishes his presentation, Kusmierz addresses the audience.  “The reason why we’re here, you’re not in the school, you’re not in the main building is because you don’t have a school,” Kusmierz said.  The workshop was held in the back end of a West Ridge Orthodox Jewish synagogue rented by Boone Elementary School to accommodate an overflow of pre-kindergarten and first grade students.

“You know this place is extremely overcrowded,” Kusmierz said.  “The kind of curriculum we have, the books, how many teachers we have, how many kids per teacher in the classroom, how long you’re waiting in the bus stop everything the roads the bridges the sidewalks that’s all because somebody 10 years ago didn’t fill out the census.”

Taylor,  said every person amounts to roughly $12,000 over 10 years. “Last time the census was conducted almost half the people in this community did not get counted,” Taylor said.  “So that’s a lot of money that would come to the community for schools, for senior citizen programs, health for clinics, for roads, to help defer the costs of the CTA.”

Getting community members to return their census forms can be difficult in a community like West Ridge where a large and diverse immigrant population may speak many different languages and residents may have cultural experiences which make them wary of the census.

The 2000 census showed that nearly 46 percent of the total population of West Ridge was foreign born and nearly 26 percent of the total population was not a U.S. citizen.  Over 58 percent reported speaking a language other than English at home.

Hala Anwayah, a mother attending the workshop, said that people of different cultures and different religions don’t feel safe or secure with their information being distributed.  Kusmierz added that some of the community members come from countries with oppressive governments.  Oftentimes they come here with a fear of government or a misunderstanding about why the census is being taken.

The U.S. Census Bureau is trying to address both language barriers and privacy concerns.  Paper census forms are available in Chinese, English, Korean, Russian, Spanish and  Vietnamese.  Language assistance guides are available in more than 50 languages, Taylor said.  In his presentation, Taylor stressed “our individual information is totally confidential” and explained  information collected in the census is kept private for 72 years.  Anyone who discloses personal information could face a $250,000 fine and five years in prison.

The bureau is also setting up Questionnaire Assistance Centers where people can seek help filling out their census forms or get answers to questions about the census.  Oftentimes, these centers are partnerships with community organizations such as the Muslim Women Resource Center, Taylor said.

Though tested in the 2000 census, Taylor said, this year’s census efforts reflect a greater effort to reach communities. Complete Count Committees have been formed in each of Chicago’s community areas with members from community business and activist organizations.

Taylor hopes that these efforts will foster a greater awareness of what the census means to community members so they can help explain the census and its implications to their neighbors.  When asked what could be done to help elderly residents who may be cautious about census workers knocking on their door, Taylor replied, “we hope that nighbors like you will tell them that the information is important to the community.  We’re depending on you.”

The census and its impact on community resources is another way for Kusmierz to connect community leaders with the many issues that affect them.  At the end of the census workshop, she announced an upcoming meeting about a new school built in the neighborhood.

Kusmierz said she expected a larger turnout at the census workshop, but that some parents had gone to a “kill the bill” rally to protest a state senate bill that would change the powers of local school councils.  Others had gone to an early morning board of education meeting.  Still, Kusmierz said those who had attended the census workshop would spread the message throughout their community.

by Geoffrey Hing and Shane Shifflett

Organizing in schools for the census

Community organizers in the northeast of Chicago are partnering with school communities to make sure that their neighborhoods are accurately counted in the 2010 census.

When census forms are sent out at the beginning of March, the returned forms may not record everyone living in communities in northeast neighborhoods of Chicago, which may impact funding for those communities.

Hina Mahmood, a community organizer with Organization of the Northeast, an organization of congregations, schools, nonprofits, and businesses, that engages people in issues affecting residents in northeast Chicago  neighborhoods, said the 2000 census return rate for Rogers Park was only 53 percent.

A 2001 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, commissioned by the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, showed that 2000 census undercounts resulted in lost federal funds for communities.  The report, which looked at the effects of census undercounts on funding from eight major programs from 2002 to 2012, estimated that Cook County would lose over $192 million in funding.

Housing instability is one factor that contributes to undercounting in northeast Chicago, Mahmood said.  She said people living in homeless shelters may not be counted in the census or count themselves in another neighborhood, such as the one where they grew up.

Mahmood also explained that as affordable housing disappears, some families double or triple up in a housing situation.  Fearing eviction for over-occupancy, the residents may only fill out the census form for one family, Mahmood said.

Mahmood said there is a “fear factor” for many people that keeps them from participating in the census.  Undocumented immigrants are particularly reluctant to provide census information.  Mahmood said undocumented immigrants may think, “’If I report myself, ICE or Homeland Security will come out to get me.”  But she stressed that there were safeguards in place that restrict the census bureau from sharing information with other government institutions.

Funding for public schools, libraries, transit, health care, and job development programs were all tied to census numbers, Mahmood said, adding that under-counting a community meant “missing out on really important and necessary resources.”

Organization of the Northeast facilitators such as Mahmood are trying to work with parents in a number of local schools, including Gale, Boone, and Clinton, to encourage participation in the census.  Mahmood said that organizers arrange presentations to parents by census workers to describe the census process and explain what happens when a community isn’t accurately counted.

Mahmood also saw engaging the community in the census as an opportunity to open up dialog and build leadership around other community issues.  “Who knows what other conversations will come up,” Mahmood said.