Obama Presidential Center Might Spur Gentrification

In Summary

The Obama Presidential Center is supposed to be a symbol of progress for underprivileged communities, but experts worry that if there is no housing protection, South Side residents will be pushed out of their community.

When former President Barack Obama broke ground on his presidential center last week, it was a historic moment for some, but for life-long South Side resident Tahiti Hamer it was a grim reminder of how much time she and her family have left in their community, according to NBC News.  

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Since 2015, when the center was first announced to the public, there has been an increase in rent and housing prices in Chicago’s South Side. Hamer, 42 years old, a single mother of three, isn’t the only resident worrying. Many are wondering what their fate will be after being displaced from their community.   

According to NBC News, Hamer has tried to purchase a home for the last two years, but it has unfortunately been out of her grasp with housing prices inflating. She has found an affordable house that would take her and her children 12 miles south of their current community.  

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“I do not want to leave. I want to stay, but I’m barely keeping my head above water now,” Hamer said. Her monthly rent has gone up from $800 to $1,000, and she said her landlord has already told her there’s another $100 hike coming because the area is “coming back up.” 

“It’s sad that the place that I’ve lived my whole life I can’t stay in anymore,” she told NBC News. “And once I leave, it will be impossible to ever come back. It’s the same story with so many people in this community.” 

The center’s site was specifically picked to celebrate Obama’s roots with a library, museum and activity center that would allow underrepresented communities to access an uplifting cultural oasis. 

However, housing experts believe that without some type of housing protection, the very people that this center was supposed to help may find themselves displaced or forced out of their own community.  

“This very much follows the script of how gentrification works,” Winifred Curran, a professor of geography and sustainable urban development at DePaul University told NBC. “The Obama center is kind of like a signal to developers to get real estate now for cheap, and then the profit potential is huge. That’s what gentrification is, and unless you very specifically do things to keep housing affordable to make property accessible to long-term residents, you’re going to see displacement.” 

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