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Study: North Shore perceived as exclusive

Updated: December 2, 2012 6:06AM



WINNETKA — According to a report from The Interfaith Housing Center many outsiders still perceive the North Shore as an exclusive, inaccessible community for which to live.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Interfaith Housing sought the help of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Natalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement.

Earlier this year UIC conducted a series of focus groups with white, Latino and black homeowners and renters from Chicago and various suburbs. The attendees were asked questions about living in the North Shore, their perceptions of the area and whether they felt they would be welcomed there as homeowners or renters.

“We decided to investigate whether people are self-selecting themselves out of that housing market,” said Interfaith Executive Director Gail Schechter. “It’s part of our effort to get these communities to be more integrated than they already are.”

The focus group participants generally felt the entire region, with the exception of Evanston and Skokie, is inaccessible. Some black and Latino participants felt they had experienced discrimination in their search for housing in the northern suburbs.

Participants did give the North Shore communities high marks for having good schools, low crime rates and having child care close to home, but would like to see more youth programs and better transportation options.

“Interfaith is not arguing that communities are engaging in exclusionary practices on purpose, but what I am saying is there is a perception out there and if you’re going to be open you might have to deal with that perception,” Schechter said.

Janet Smith, the co-director of the UIC Voorhees Center, said they targeted people who were not living in the northern suburbs but may have an interest in moving there.

The focus groups, consisting of 7-12 participants at a time, were asked questions and engaged in active discussions about the area.

“A lot of people think of mansions, but don’t know of the wide range of housing options,” Smith said. “We had people from Lincoln Park who felt they couldn’t afford to live in these communities.”

Based on the UIC data, Interfaith is recommending that North Shore communities advertise their communities as open, promote housing stock that is more affordable to people with low and moderate incomes, encourage more public transportation, address concerns about comfort in their community and recruit people of color to appointed or elected positions in local government.

The Interfaith Housing Center, which officially changed their name to Open Communities on Sunday, is based in Winnetka. The group advocates fair and affordable housing in 16 northern suburbs, including Glenview, Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Glencoe.

Results of the study can be viewed at Interfaith Housing’s website, www.interfaithhousingcenter.org.



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