The red dots represent foreclosures initiated beetween January and October 2008 – Southwest side zip code 60629. To download all three pages of maps click here. Maps courtesy The Southwest Organizing Project.


On Monday, I participated in a panel discussion at Roosevelt University sponsored by the Chicago Rehab Network. The panel had convened primarily to discuss the future of affordable housing in Chicago. “There’s nothing more stabilizing than a safe home,” said Kevin Jackson, Chicago Rehab’s executive director, in his opening remarks. “Housing is foundational.”

Not surprisingly, the discussion moved on to the recent wave of home foreclosures, which doesn’t seem to have crested yet. “This is about human lives, human pain,” said Jeff Bartow, the executive director of the Southwest Organizing Project, a neighborhood activist group that works around Midway Airport. Bartow distributed copies of a map of the Southwest Side that encompassed four Zip codes. Red dots indicated homes where foreclosures had been initiated in the first ten months of 2008. On some sections of the map, the swarm of red dots was so thick that it blotted out almost everything else.

The panelists concurred that help for the housing sector should be a fundamental part of any bailout plan from Washington—an opinion echoed by President-elect Barack Obama later the same day. As for ongoing bailout efforts, Bartow said that he was “stumped by what sometimes seems like a lack of urgency” about keeping homes occupied.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who represents Illinois’ 9th district, spoke immediately after the panel session. She said that the new Congress was committed to using the Troubled Assets Relief Program—the main component of the federal bailout plan—to help individual homeowners rather than large financial institutions. “I apologize that we were unable to keep that money from dribbling away,” she said, referring to the $350 billion already released by Washington as part of the plan. She noted that Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced legislation requiring that between $40 billion and $100 billion of the remaining $350 billion go to combating the foreclosure crisis. “The next $350 billion will be much more directed to help for housing,” Schakowsky promised.