For low-income people, a lot of our time is taken up by jobs that don’t give paid time off, children who need attentive parents, and relationships that require work. The gaps are filled in with everything else life brings. There’s no time left over to go on a treasure hunt just to find an affordable place to call home. In the winter of 2012, my move to Chicago would set me on the path to have to do just that.
I traded in my MetroCard for a CTA pass and moved to the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. There was a creative black community, my $750 rent was affordable, and I still had enough money to get bottom-shelf whiskey if I went out. A new job opportunity took me from the beauty of the Southside to an $800 gem in Humboldt Park.
Things were going decently until the neighborhood — filled with “2 Flats,” an affordable Chicago housing staple — began to change. Moving trucks were constantly present, and I began to see a lot more white faces. A 2018 study from the Institute of Housing Studies at DePaul University states that due to gentrification, 2 Flats in neighborhoods like mine — which often house multiple generations — were being purchased and turned into single family homes, pushing out lower-income residents.
My building was purchased by a management company who slapped on a coat of fresh paint, put one washer/dryer set in the basement ($4 per load), and then slid a note under my door telling me they were raising my rent. Within three years, the rent went from $800 to $1,200. In August of 2017 I got another notice: the rent was going up to $1,475.
A single-person household in Chicago earning under $36,000 yearly is considered to be very low income — that was me. Factoring in transportation, bills, student loans, helping family, food and more, there was no way I could survive in this or many other Chicago neighborhoods. Survival included entertainment, such as seeing a film or treating myself to my favorite lunch spot, even though the world chastises poor…