A Call to Disrupt

Our Executive Director, James Rudyk, offered the following remarks at the 2018 LISC Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on April 5th. You can watch the speech here or read it below.

"For over the last decade, my career has been focused on housing and community organizing as tools for community-led development. 

Over the last five years, the Northwest Side Housing Center has helped over 2,000 families stay in their homes. Families like Hilda and Carlos who owned their home for 11 years and went into foreclosure due to job loss and illness. Hilda asked me what does she tell her children at dinner when the lights were cut off because they could not pay their electric bill. She asked, would her children have their own bed to sleep in? Their living room to play in? Their friends on their block to play with? Their classmates to go to school with? After three years of fighting with their bank, Hilda and Carlos saved their home from foreclosure. It’s also families like Nancy and Ernie who owned their home for 17 years, and after Ernie suffered both a stroke and throat cancer had to declare bankruptcy at age 70 to obtain a loan modification and save their home. Or stories like Sandy who was disabled at her manufacturing job, kept paying her mortgage for over three years, but then was not able to keep up with her bills without steady income and eventually lost her place to call home and is now in the process of desperately trying to find an apartment to call home. Yet, she cannot find an affordable apartment that can also accommodate her disability. These are just three examples of the thousands of people who have done everything right yet still are losing a place to call home through no fault of their own.

People who were taken advantage of.

Tricked into bad mortgages.

And flat out lied to.

People who have been impacted by cancer.

Death and divorce,

while desperately trying to save their families, homes, and lives.

So why do I think housing is so important? Where someone lives impacts everything else about their life– the schools they send their children to, the access they have to transportation to get to work, and the spaces available for their children to play. It all starts with a place to live.

In the Belmont Cragin community alone, two-thirds of the families spend more than half of their income on housing each month (that’s right half of every paycheck goes to housing alone). Our community is made up of families who have been displaced by gentrification, priced out of other nearby communities and have had to continuously pack up their lives and move just to find a safe place to live, they keep moving and it’s still a struggle for them to make their rent.

The number one reason why people lose their homes is the lack of sustainable living wage income. Having a good paying job increases your chances of having a stable, affordable place to live and having a stable, affordable place to live increases your chances of landing and keeping a good paying job. Housing and employment are mutually reinforcing and need to be considered together rather than separately. This call for action is an opportunity for us to do that. To no longer look at housing and employment separately and no longer fail to provide safe and affordable housing for every Chicagoan.  

As a city, we have not been proactive about managing housing market changes in communities. So, what can we do to support renters and homeowners to be more stable in their current housing today and be prepared to preserve housing in the future when displacement pressures increase?

What we can do right now is disrupt:

disrupt gentrification

disrupt displacement

 disrupt unscrupulous and fraudulent mortgage practices

and respond to families where they are at – and find solutions, whatever those may be, to keep a family housed. What would it be like if we had ethical mortgage professionals who weren’t only concerned with the bottom line, if we had financial institutions that were accountable and offered families forbearance, and what would it look like if we had the tools needed to address the underlying market conditions so that families would not reach the point of crisis?

It would like strategies and tools, housing financing options, government policies, and universal affordable housing programs to disrupt.

To disrupt, to respond, and to intervene proactively in communities based on the needs of current residents. Join me in asking the City of Chicago to invest in and support community strategies informed by market conditions so that housing choice becomes a reality for all Chicagoans."

Laura Slabaugh