Since 1972, we’ve engaged in strategies benefiting our community by promoting housing integration, inclusion, and community reinvestment. The Housing Center is critical to the open, integrated, and inclusive character of Oak Park. Our work provides the foundation for Oak Park’s intentional efforts to have a population that reflects the diversity of our region and a community that is equitable for all.
In the Oak Park rental market, at least one-third of all renters move each year. This means that the geography and demographics of the housing market can change quickly and dramatically. Studies in the American Journal of Sociology and other research publications have found that the involvement of the Housing Center ensures that we overcome implicit biases , stereotypes , and racial blind spots that would result in segregation when no proactive effort is in place. Integration of our neighborhoods is the origin of our community’s values and prosperity.
Our housing integration allows us to enjoy the luxury of neighborhood schools in Oak Park. Many of us enjoy having our schools double as a community resource and a place to connect with neighbors. Because our schools are neighborhood-based, the level of integration in our schools is dependent on the integration of our housing market. Research has shown that children who are educated in a diverse environment are more likely to succeed as adults. Moreover, the integration of our schools ensures that we spend our resources and provide for our children in a more equitable manner.
Integrated Social Networks
Because our neighborhoods and schools are integrated, our social networks are better integrated too. Communities gather on their blocks, at their schools, and in nearby parks and businesses. Unlike in most communities, Oak Park’s integration means that these neighborhood gatherings are more likely to be integrated as well. Our integrated housing market means that we have the ability to interact in diverse settings and develop a more inclusive worldview by simply living out our daily lives.
Preservation of Social Values
Oak Parkers are proud to live in a community that has a real sense of place and core values. Chief among these values is our belief in diversity. It is through the Housing Center’s integration strategy that we live out this value. By interacting with one another, we can also learn from one another and build empathy. That interaction makes our community more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable over time.
Ensuring Economic Prosperity
Our integration also plays a key role in our economy. The Housing Center’s integration strategy for Oak Park ensures that people of every racial group seek out Oak Park as a place to live. That builds strong demand for housing here, which contributes to strong property values. That value allows us to gain wealth through homeownership and provides stability for renters. It also provides the demand needed for economic development as well — a strong business community in Oak Park is reliant on local patronage for success. The demand generated by the Housing Center’s marketing keeps our economy moving.
Based on community input and analysis, the Housing Center promotes reinvestment in the communities of color by serving traditional residents, improving the housing stock, and increasing neighborhood desirability. Our programming provides an increase in safe, decent, and affordable rental and homeownership opportunities.
These efforts are also a strategy to empower community residents. The increase in the safety and stability that results from our direct services provides a foundation for residents to advocate for change and progress in their communities.
As a result, this effort will support an expansion of naturally occurring affordable housing by increasing neighborhood desirability without creating excessive increases in property values through reinvestment. The financial assistance for both borrowers and developers will ensure that housing in this program will play a positive market role in the community.
In addition to the direct benefits of reinvestment in housing, our organization provides a platform for other positive changes in the community. We coordinate our efforts with others in the community to support a comprehensive community reinvestment strategy. This is largely directed by participants in our program and community-based organizations working in tandem with us.
Many community residents have emphasized and worked with us to leverage housing efforts for other community needs. The investment in the housing stock is understood as a signal of the economic and social value of the community. Investment through our programs encourages investment from other groups.
Participants in our program have also taken on leadership roles to work on solutions in their neighborhoods. Our participants have led clean up days, interaction with youth, and beautification projects. We have also provided them with technical assistance to increase civic engagement. Participants take on leadership roles in local clubs and organizations.
Our housing efforts are also meant to support the complementary development of locally owned small businesses. We are prioritizing efforts in blocks near strategic areas to accompany efforts in the community to promote new small businesses. This strategy is meant to provide a complete community in which residents can live, work, and shop in their neighborhood.