Economic Hardship in Humboldt Park
On February 11, 2011, Executive Director Bill Howard joined the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Chicago Information Center and two other panelists at the Federal Reserve Bank to explore the subject of economic hardship in West Humboldt Park and in other Chicago land neighborhoods and suburbs. Joining Bill on the panel was Mick Dumke, Staff Writer at the Chicago News Cooperative, along with Kate Maehr, Chief Executive Officer at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
For many years, some economic and social indicators drawn from the community of West Humboldt Park have pretty much mirrored those of the City of Chicago at large. As goes the city, some say, so goes the direction of many West Humboldt Park economic and social indicators. Although the direction of the two sets of statistics may be the same, the magnitude of the data in the West Humboldt Park community is always more striking.
For example, between the years 2008 (around the beginning of the most recent economic recession) and the first few months of 2011, the unemployment rate in the City of Chicago exceeded 10%. In some areas of the West Humboldt Park Development Council’s target area, however, the rate exceeded 25%. Poverty rates in WHP were estimated in some areas to approach half of the population, exceeding the level in the city as a whole. Indicators of residential crowding and housing foreclosures were higher in WHP than in the overall city, and WHP homicide rates were the highest in the city.
One piece of good news is that, like community land trusts around the country, the rate of foreclosures on First Community Land Trust of Chicago homes was better than that experienced by holders of conventional home mortgages. For community land trusts around the country, data for the 4th quarter of 2009 (the latest available) showed that 4.6% of market-rate home mortgages were in foreclosure. For the same period, the rate of U.S. community land trust mortgages in foreclosure totaled 0.6%. In West Humboldt Park, none of the land trust homes was in foreclosure – despite the fact that these home owners just like home owners in the city at large, experienced significant economic hardship.
During the recent recession, credit scores of would be home buyers around the city seriously deteriorated – especially in neighborhoods like West Humboldt Park. Among First Community Land Trust of Chicago applicants who were beneficiaries of FCLTC technical assistance, however, credit scores held steady – or even improved – thanks to FCLTC’s long-term counseling and technical assistance received by these applicants. (Although all of these applicants eventually earned good credit scores, FCLTC temporarily halted construction of new homes due to an unfavorable economic and financial climate for buyers and builders.)
Another piece of good news is that experience in WHP demonstrates that on streets with block clubs, crime rates are lower. The Development Council has capitalized on this phenomenon and works with approximately 3 dozen block clubs in the community through its Block Club Network.
As goes the city, so goes the community of West Humboldt Park in some cases, except that the West Humboldt Park Community Development Council, along with all its programs including the Healthy Community Initiative and the land trust, as well as its staff and many partners and volunteers, is helping to make a positive difference.
Posted in Community Development