Areas of Research
The Voorhees Center's mission has taken the organization into many communities over the last 25 years and often for very different reasons. Some communities are experiencing unprecedented growth and as a result long time residents are getting displaced. Other communities have not had any new development in many years and as a result live in destitute conditions. These neighborhood dynamics are very central to the work of the Voorhees Center and getting to the core of these issues requires work at many different levels. Our areas of research include:
The Center works on issues around the effects of gentrification and public housing transformation in order to preserve and produce more affordable housing for very low-income families. Examples of work surrounding the topic of affordable housing include the Illinois Assisted Housing Action Research Project (IHARP) and the 2003 Affordable Housing Fact Book which was completed for the Chicago Rehab Network. Both projects provide data analysis of the affordable housing conditions in Chicago and the state of Illinois. Additionally, a study that is expected to be released in 2006, The State of Affordable Housing in the Chicago Region in the Coming Decade, is currently underway.
Public housing is a major component of the affordable housing stock and is therefore a major interest to the Center. In addition to working on broad issues relating to public housing transformation in Chicago, the Center also works directly with public housing residents and other stakeholders. The Center provides technical assistance as well as conducts field research on the preservation of public housing. One such study, The Plan to Voucher out Public Housing: An Analysis of the Chicago Experience and a Case Study of the Proposal to Redevelop the Cabrini-Green Public Housing Area was completed in the late 1990's.
Working with community partners is an integral part of all Voorhees Center work. Community based groups are vehicles for change in any neighborhood but these group often lack the technical expertise needed to move some projects along. The Center provides this technical assistance and as a result strengthens the community development capacity for each group it works with. An example of such work can be seen in a study recently completed for The Resurrection Project, entitled Senior Housing on Chicago's Southwest Side: With a Focus on Latino Seniors, A Market Feasibility Study.
Change is defined best by each neighborhood or community. For some the change is negative and for others it is positive. The key to providing meaningful assistance to a community is that changes are understood at all levels. The Center conducts data analysis on a broad scope to better understand the major issues concerning Chicago neighborhoods. This analysis helps identify trends and aids in the development of planning strategies. Two projects that consist of citywide data analysis are the Neighborhood Change Gentrification Index and Neighborhood Indicators Project.
In trying to help communities like West Town to understand and deal with the effects of gentrification, VNC staff developed an index to gauge the extent to which different parts of the community were gentrified over time. Using US Census data from 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000, the index was applied to Chicago's 77 community areas. Evidence of gentrification was found in several communities, but more striking was the sustained levels of disinvestment and poverty fund in many more communities. The project includes and interactive map where data for each community area can be viewed.
The Neighborhood Indicators project was done for the Chicago Rehab Network. The project created a community area typology based on analysis of several housing market indicators. From the analysis, 7 distinct clusters of community areas were developed. Though each neighborhood is unique, cluster communities are linked by similar housing market characteristics and census data. The seven clusters include: Homeowning, Thinning, Tightening, Converting, Filling, Booming, and Bursting.
An important aspect of the Center's work is to actively engage community residents so that they are better informed about what is happening in their communities. One approach to working with residents is to provide data and information on policy that can help residents better understand their options, fight for more options if needed and be active participants in the decision making and planning process. An example of this approach is the West Town gentrification study which was prepared for Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation. Gentrification in West Town: Contested Ground has helped educate residents about the topic of gentrification and has helped other communities understand the process of gentrification and to identify strategies to prevent displacement.
Another project recently completed included community planning with 4 non-gentrifying neighborhoods The project was entitled Making Positive Change in Non-Gentrifying Communities in Chicago. The project helped these neighborhoods develop community driven action plans to improve their quality of life.
Also recently completed , the Housing and Demographic Survey of Humboldt Park, prepared for LUCHA to assit the organization in carrying out a community planning process.