Linda Jennings, 74, is a lifelong South Shore resident. Her family moved to the neighborhood in 1958. Today, she’s a homeowner and lives just a few blocks from the apartment building where she grew up in the 6800 block of South Crandon Avenue. 

“I saw the building when I was 11 and said one day I want to live there. I got the opportunity, so I moved in,” she said, referring to her current home. Jennings is a condo owner and lives in a nearly 100-plus-year-old building in South Shore. 

She’s also a member of the Obama Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, which was formed in 2016 to protect area residents from displacement due to the development of the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park. A CBA is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and development to the local community or neighborhood.

Obama and his foundation selected Jackson Park as the site for his presidential center and library in 2016. Jennings said she and other seniors have been concerned about being displaced from the neighborhood due to rising home maintenance costs. She also fears that an outside developer could purchase the building, which would displace them. 

“We don’t have the reserves to get things fixed,” she explained. “So we’re very vulnerable.”

Infrastructure issues are plaguing the building and are making it challenging to stay because most seniors are on a fixed income and can’t afford repairs, Jennings added. Her building still has radiator heat and needs other repairs. Severe thunderstorms this past June also caused damage to her neighbors. 

“It [the water] was coming so fast, it knocked out a lot of ceilings in apartments. There was too much water, and our pipes couldn’t handle it,” she said. 

A north-facing rendering of the Obama Presidential Center campus in Jackson Park. Courtesy of The Obama Foundation.

Ahead of the Chicago City Council meeting on Sept. 14, organizing groups such as Obama CBA Coalition, Not Me We and Southside Organizing for Power (STOP) stood alongside  Ald. Desmon Yancy (5th Ward) to introduce the South Shore Housing Preservation Ordinance, which includes a package of policies that would prevent displacement in South Shore. 

The South Shore Housing Preservation Ordinance would set aside all city-owned vacant lots for affordable housing, ban move-in fees, cap rental application fees and security deposits, create a South Shore Loan Fund for the redevelopment of vacant homes and multi-unit buildings, and designate a lot at 63rd Street and Blackstone Avenue for affordable housing, among other demands. 

The South Shore Housing Ordinance needs approval from the City Council before becoming law. 

About 75 percent of people in South Shore are renters and low-income. According to an analysis by the Chicago Reader, South Shore residents experience the highest level of evictions in Cook County. 

“The 60649 ZIP code has had more evictions than any other ZIP code in the city,”  Yancy said during the press conference. He was elected to be the fifth Ward alder in the April runoff, replacing Leslie Hairston, who retired from the City Council. 

“We have to do something about that. So, I ran [for office] with a promise to support housing in South Shore and this community benefits agreement,” he continued. 

Kiara Hardin, a South Side native and Obama CBA Coalition member, echoed Yancy’s sentiments. 

Hardin lived in South Shore from 2018 to 2021 but was forced to leave because her rent increased from $900 to $1,450, she said. She moved from a high-rise on South Shore Drive to another apartment before settling in Washington Park. 

“We’re seeing the act of displacement happening now before this center is even built and all other developments like this. The Obama Center isn’t the only development happening in South Shore,” Hardin said.

With its proposed ordinance, the Obama CBA Coalition builds on its nearly decade-long fight to protect residents from displacement. In 2020, the Chicago City Council passed the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance, which was co-sponsored by Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward). One of the Woodlawn ordinance’s key features is that for each redevelopment of 52 vacant city-owned lots, at least 30 percent of new apartments must be made affordable to “very low-income households.” 

The early iterations of the ordinance included South Shore and Hyde Park, but both were cut from the final Woodlawn Housing Preservation in 2020, according to a Hyde Park Herald news report, leaving the South Shore neighborhood unprotected.

In May, city planners selected the Woodlawn Social, a $48.4 million project, to redevelop land on the 900 and 1000 blocks of East 63rd Street. The project will include 60 affordable apartments in a six-story building and a four-story structure containing 10-market rate townhomes. According to a Block Club Chicago news report, construction on the project may begin in mid-2024.

In February, nearly 90 percent of South Shore residents supported a ballot referendum for the proposed South Shore CBA ordinance, and Woodlawn residents voted in favor of a referendum that asked voters whether elected leaders should support building affordable housing on the vacant lot at 63rd Street and Blackstone Avenue.


During a press conference following Thursday’s city council meeting, Mayor Brandon Johnson was asked if he supported all of the provisions from the Shore Housing Preservation Ordinance. 

Johnson said he supports having a community benefits agreement that “doesn’t push families out of the very community in which they’ve been raised in or they’ve raised the family in.” 

“What we’re clear about, though, is that a benefits agreement speaks to the needs of the people who live there and should have a right to remain there. That’s what I’m committed to doing in my role with this benefits agreement and every piece of legislation that speaks to our values,” he added. 

Yancy will join the Obama CBA organizers’ virtual community meeting on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. to learn more from him about the South Shore Housing Preservation Ordinance and the steps needed to make it law. Here is the Zoom link to register and tune in. 

“I deserve development without having to be displaced. I pay taxes just like everyone else does. This ordinance sets a precedent. It sets a precedent that people living in communities are important and should be served and have all of the things that they need,” Hardin said.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.