By Ivis García
The roar of the engines as the Puerto Rican People’s parade passed the Puerto Rican Cultural Center did not drown out the enthusiasm of students talking with parade-goers about the housing pressures that Paseo Boricua and surrounding neighborhoods faced.
Eight students; Michael Baker, Jimmie Grey, Logan Hunt, Alec Jacobs, Bryan Luu, Anders Rauk, Lauren Victor, and Samah Safiullah, selected from the University of Utah School of Architecture and Planning, worked under the guidance of Dr. Ivis Garcia-Zambrana. In just six weeks the students examined housing in primarily Latino areas and researched what was impacting affordability and displacement.
The students first met with a variety of community leaders to understand the issues facing Chicago and observing important work already being done by community organizations and developers. Rapidly gaining a deep knowledge of the city by touring and learning the history of neighborhoods.
Through the weekly conversations with the Puerto Rican Agenda the students were able to direct their research. They also met with a variety of researchers to understand the current state of research regarding gentrification.
Launching off of Dr. Garcia-Zambrana’s previous research on Puerto Rican neighborhoods in Chicago and the information they received from the Puerto Rican agenda, they sought to measure the economic and social pressures facing the Humboldt Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Graphing and measure rapid gentrification and displacement of the Puerto Rican people.
This work culminated in a Housing Summit held at ChiArts, where community members, politicians, and stakeholders met to have a lively discussion on the state of housing in Chicago. The students presented a community timeline, exhibiting the past fifty years of activism and affordable housing in the Puerto Rican community. Additionally, they presented their research of the current state of Latino and Puerto Rican displacement and unaffordability in current and historical Latino neighborhoods. This provided a basis for proposed strategies for combating displacement in the gentrifying neighborhoods.
During the summit the students as for community feedback on housing needs. They continued this work during the Puerto Rican People’s parade as they set up presentation boards for parade-goers to read and engage in discussion. The results of the research and feedback from the housing summit will be published for distribution.
The students would like to express gratitude to the Puerto Rican Agenda and the many organization they met with for allowing them to be a part of such a historic event. Additionally, they are grateful for the organizations willingness to share their passion, inspiration, and knowledge.