The Hot Beat

Icon

The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Reality and the Chicago connection

Eastern Iowa fears of the Chicago migration are nothing new, and they’re beginning to become cyclical. This is the lead of a big Sunday story in The Gazette on Aug. 18, 2003:

Christina McGowan remembers well those days when she lived on Chicago’s south side. She was called First Lady. She was respected and feared. She had money….

McGowan, 26, and her three children live in a two-bedroom Cedar Rapids apartment across the street from a cornfield, eking out a much more meager, but quieter, living.

“I am on my way to that happy ending, so to speak,” said McGowan, who moved to the area last year. “I think I was supposed to be dead or in jail right now.”

McGowan is among a growing number of new Eastern Iowans moving to the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Technology Corridor who are fleeing the poverty and crime of inner cities.

Many are coming from Chicago, which is displacing families while tearing down its projects and replacing them with mixed-income town houses. The majority are African-American families – typically single mothers with children.

But I just got off the telephone with a woman named Susan Popkin, and she doesn’t buy the notion that black people have left Chicago in large numbers as housing projects have been torn down.

Popkin is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C., and she’s been tracking Chicago public housing for almost a decade. People who left Chicago’s old public housing have largely moved to other parts of Chicago, or the south suburbs, she said.

“They have not moved to Iowa,” she said. “They’re in Chicago.”

The gentrification of Chicago is the driving force behind any migration, she said.

Popkin admits no weaknesses in the Section 8 subsidized housing program that several people around here blame for importing Chicago problems into Eastern Iowa cities, except this:

High concentrations of Section 8 vouchers in one neighborhood can ruin a neighborhood, Popkin said. This is the contention of Dale Todd, a Wellington Heights resident who grew up in Chicago and moved to Cedar Rapids in 1974.

“When we develop concentrations of Section 8 housing…it can have a negative impact on the people we’re trying to help,” he said. “The inability of regular landlords to rent in that neighborhood forces them to turn to Section 8. It’s a cycle.”

Popkin said it’s up to the local housing authority to be prudent in how it directs the vouchers. This requires outreach to new landlords, so more will accept them, so the vouchers will be spread out evenly across a community.

“When you have a modest number of voucher holders in a neighborhood it’s often good for property values because it’s a guaranteed income stream for landlords,” she said.

Advertisements

Filed under: Cedar Rapids Library, Public Safety, , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Former WH'er says:

    Adam,

    Thanks for the facts on this issue. I’ll admit that you’ve changed my mind and enlightened me a bit. Until this last April, my family and I lived in Wellington Heights for more than a decade. I’d have sworn there is a larger number of Chicagoan/Illinois sections 8 recipients than are apparently here.

    While understanding that these type of things are cyclical, the tenor and feel in that neighborhood has become more on edge over the last 2-3 years. Now that we havea solid isea of what is NOT causing this change, maybe a piece with like sourcing on what changes have occurered in Wellngton Heights over the last decade could be very enlightning.

    One possibility to my mind are the restrictions placed on the residents in the WH historical district. This does not comprise the entire neighborhood but the balance between maintaining the historical flavor is IMO, not being reached in a favorable manner. The restrictions placed on remodeling/maintaining and the types of materials are typically too expensive for a family of moderate to low income. Combined with the hassle of getting an approval meeting scheduled and the time required to attend said meeting, this only encourages people to neglect their property, further driving down the value and quality of the neighborhood.

    Thanks again, one of the best local pieces of journalism I’ve seen lately.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: