South sub­urbs con­tains com­mu­ni­ties with na­tion’s top black home­owner rates

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - Front Page - Ted Slowik

A new re­port by Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts finds that five com­mu­ni­ties with the na­tion’s high­est rates of black home­own­er­ship are lo­cated in the south sub­urbs.

Olympia Fields— where 98 per­cent of black res­i­dents own their homes— tops the list. Four other towns in the top 10 na­tion­ally are South Hol­land, Floss­moor, Mat­te­son and Lyn- wood.

Mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers are re­act­ing to the re­port with pride, say­ing the data prove the suc­cess of pro­grams that pro­mote in­clu­sion and high­light ben­e­fits of di­ver­sity.

“I think it bodes well for the south­ern end of the (Chicago) metropoli­tan area,” Olympia Fields Vil­lage Pres­i­dent Ster­ling Burke said. “There is more word of mouth that this is a great place to live. This is a des­ti­na­tion that peo­ple­want to share.”

Long­time South Hol­land Mayor Don De Graff said the re­port re­flects de­lib­er­ate com­mit­ment to di­ver­sity by vil­lage lead­ers, res­i­dents, busi­ness own­ers, civic groups, churches, schools and Real­tors.

“We took a strong ap­proach to di­ver­sity back in the 1970s and 1980s,” De Graff said.“We passed the strong­est fair hous­ing or­di­nance in the na­tion.”

The Fair Hous­ing Act of 1968 ad­dressed block-bust­ing, redlining, panic-ped­dling, racial steer­ing and other prac­tices that played upon fears amid “white flight” mi­gra­tion.

Since its found­ing in 1975, the mis­sion of Home­wood-based South Sub­ur­ban Hous­ing Cen­ter has been to elim­i­nate dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing and foster di­verse com­mu­ni­ties, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor John Petruszak said.

“The chal­lenge to this day is to en­cour­age ex­pan­sion of the mar­ket sowe can at­tract whites who value liv­ing in di­verse com­mu­ni­ties,” Petruszak said.

The Pew re­port, pub­lished Aug. 15, said the na­tional rate of black home­own­er­ship re­mains near a 50-year low of just 41 per­cent. The na­tional white home­own­er­ship rate is 71 per­cent.

Yet, the black home­own­er­ship rate is 85 per­cent in South Hol­land, 83 per­cent in Floss­moor and 80 per­cent in Mat­te­son and

Lyn­wood, ac­cord­ing to Pew.

“I didn’t re­al­ize the na­tion­wide rate of black home­own­er­ship is only 41 per­cent,” Floss­moorMayor Paul Braun said. Floss­moor’s 9,500 res­i­dents are al­most evenly split: 47 per­cent black and 46 per­cent white, he said.

Floss­moor and South Hol­land are among towns where poli­cies em­brace val­ues of di­ver­sity. On Aug. 20, the Floss­moor Vil­lage Board adopted a set of “Guid­ing Prin­ci­pals for Di­ver­sity & In­clu­sion.”

“Peo­ple of di­verse back­grounds need to be in­cluded and rep­re­sented in gov­ern­ment,” the prin­ci­ples read, in part. “Vil­lage pro­grams and events should of­fer a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties that cel­e­brate all cul­tures and al­low res­i­dents to cel­e­brate di­ver­sity, be­come more united, and learn fromeach other.”

De Graff, 67, said he was born and raised in South Hol­land and has served as mayor of the town of nearly 22,000since 1987. He re­calls howin the 1950s and 1960s, whites tried to keep out blacks mi­grat­ing from Rose­land, En­gle­wood and other Chicago neigh­bor­hoods.

“There was a sig­nif­i­cant mi­gra­tion of African-Amer­i­cans com­ing out of the city,” he said.

It took de­lib­er­ate com­mit­ment by ev­ery­onein the vil­lage to­con­vey the mes­sage that “blacks were wel­comed and whites were en­cour­aged to stay,” he said.

Petruszak shared a 10-page re­port he pre­pared for a White House con­fer­ence on the fore­clo­sure cri­sis in 2012. His re­port cited Cen­sus and de­mo­graphic data that showed whites moved out of the south sub­urbs en masse dur­ing the 1990s.

“The white pop­u­la­tion of this area shrank dra­mat­i­cally from a ma­jor­ity of 62.6 per­cent in 1990 to 37.6 per­cent in 2000,” his re­port said.

Petruszak de­fined the south sub­urbs as 32 com­mu­ni­ties gen­er­ally east of In­ter­state 57 with a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 414,631. In 2012, the ra­tio was 60.7 per­cent black, 30.3 per­cent white and 12.9 per­cent His­panic.

His paper for the White House con­fer­ence cited other stud­ies by Roo­sevelt Univer­sity and North­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity that found“Chicago’s sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence a high de­gree of racial sep­a­ra­tion.”

An­other 23 com­mu­ni­ties di­rectly west of the south sub­urbs make up an area known as the south­west sub­urbs, his re­port said. Only 6 per­cent of the 437,510 peo­ple in that re­gion are black.

“These com­mu­ni­ties have been tra­di­tion­ally per­ceived to be ‘closed’ by African-Amer­i­cans,” the re­port said. Lati­nos and oth­ers ac­count for nearly 16 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in the south­west sub­urbs.

The Pew re­port men­tions con­cerns raised by may­ors and fair­hous­ing ad­vo­cates that the south sub­urbs were among ar­eas hit hard­est in the na­tion by the fore­clo­sure cri­sis.

“The sub­prime lend­ing de­ba­cle dashed the home­own­er­ship dreams of many black fam­i­lies in sub­urbs less af­flu­ent than Olympia Fields,” the Pew re­port said.

Hous­ing prices — even in com­mu­ni­ties such as Olympia Fields— re­main de­pressed in the wake of the hous­ing-mar­ket col­lapse a dec- ade ago.

“The south Cook (County) area had the high­est rate of fore­clo­sure, and this area has shown the slow­est rate of re­cov­ery,” Petruszak said.

Data for July re­ported by the real es­tate in­for­ma­tion com­pany Realty Trac showed that of the more than 130 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in Cook County, the five towns with the high­est rates of fore­clo­sure are in the south sub­urbs: Thornton, South Hol­land, Coun­try Club Hills, Dolton and Mat­te­son.

“We’re hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time dig­ging out,” Petruszak said, add- ing that Hazel Crest, Floss­moor and Olympia Fields also re­cently topped Real­tyTrac’s fore­clo­sure re­ports.

May­ors of­fered other anal­y­sis about the Pew re­port that sheds light on­why sev­eral south sub­urbs lead the na­tion in black home­own­er­ship rates. Burke and De Graff said Olympia Fields and South Hol­land have few mul­ti­fam­ily hous­ing units and that their com­mu­ni­ties con­sist mostly of sin­gle­fam­ily homes.

“We don’t have any rentals,” Burke said.

“We have no apart­ments, no con­dos — we’re all sin­gle-fam­ily homes,” De Graff said.

Petruszak said the South Sub­ur­ban Hous­ing Cen­ter’s work in re­cent years has ex­panded to help mi­nor­ity and low-in­come res­i­dents avoid preda­tory lenders.

“The cur­rent na­tional mort­gage fore­clo­sure cri­sis has had dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on the hous­ing mar­kets in many com­mu­ni­ties of the south sub­urbs where the cor­re­la­tion be­tween the clus­ter­ing of high-cost sub­prime lend­ing and the high rates of de­faults/fore­clo­sures and ar­eas of sub­stan­tial mi­nor­ity home­own­er­ship is ex­tremely dra­matic,” his 2012 re­port for the White House con­fer­ence said.

TED SLOWIK/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

In Olympia Fields, 98 per­cent of black res­i­dents own their homes.

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