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Gentrification challenging 'basic human right' of affordable housing

The Office for Peace and Justice of the Chicago Archdiocese is calling for action to counter the growing threat to poor and working class residents posed by the rapid "gentrification" of housing in inner city areas.

Director of the Office's housing project Jonathan Njus told the diocesan newspaper that Catholic social teaching affirms affordable, safe, decent housing as a basic human right that is "intrinsic to the human dignity of individuals made in the image and likeness of God".

He praised the work done by a number of outspoken parish priests who speak out against rapid gentrification. Gentrification, and its attendant rise in housing costs and property taxes, pushes poor and working class people out of their communities, he said.

"We as a Catholic Church are called to live in community," he said. "That means with people of different races, ethnicities, income levels and everything else. When it comes to gentrification, people are losing their shelter and neighbourhoods are losing their diversity."

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George has raised similar issues. He addressed the problem of gentrification directly in a 2001 presentation to the "Valuing Affordability" conference sponsored by the Chicago Rehab Network.

"We value affordability, first of all, because we value housing," the cardinal said. "For if the dignity of every human being makes a claim on us, then we need to respect also the primary demand that enables any one, any group, any family, to live with dignity."

Pictured: Parish priest Fr Michael Herman talks with community representative Rey Reyes (Catholic New World)

Affordable housing a 'basic human right' (Catholic New World 28/3/04)

Chicago Rehab Network | Valuing Affordability
Archdiocese of Chicago

6 Apr 2004