We are nearing the end of 2022, our fiftieth year of service. We have spent some of this year looking back at our history, our work, and the people who have made Open Communities the organization it is today.
But, even after 50 years, our work must continue because fair housing discrimination in Chicago's north and northwest suburbs and the entire United States continues.
As our Board Co-President, Frank Clements, shared at our anniversary celebration in September,
"50 years. That is a long time to be fighting for fair and inclusive housing. Think back to 1972. Some of you were not born; some were just toddlers, teens, and even young adults. The world was very different then, just four short years after the passage of the Civil Right Bill that included the Fair Housing Act. It is seven years after Martin Luther King Jr came to the Winnetka Green because of our founders' work trying to integrate and desegregate the North Shore. There Martin Luther King Jr said, "We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish as fools. "The founders that started this fight had a vision. Have we delivered on that vision? NO."
Board Co-President Carol Golder shared staggering facts about housing today.
"Today, fewer Black people own their own homes than in 1972. Nationally fewer than 50% of Black households own their own home, compared to more than 70% of white households. This means generational wealth is not being built through home ownership and appreciation, which increases the staggering racial wealth gap. We must change this."
So what does Open Communities do to make housing fair and inclusive in the Chicago suburbs?
We investigate fair housing discrimination cases
We educate landlords, renters, homeowners, and realtors about fair housing laws
We meditate when fair housing issues arise between parties
When necessary, we enforce fair housing laws with lawsuits
We work to keep housing on the North Shore and in northern Cook and Lake Counties open and available to all.
At the same 50th anniversary event, our CEO, Cheryl Lawrence, talked about the organization and where Open Communities is today.
"Open Communities has gone through its fair share of transition in recent years, but I am elated to report that we are financially healthy and are building the organization to meet the needs of our communities today and beyond. Our team provides direct housing counseling services in pre-home purchasing, foreclosure prevention, and renter assistance. We are enforcing fair housing laws and providing mediation and legal representation. AND we are working on a 5-year strategic plan to build a roadmap grounded in racial equity principles."
As we conclude our fiftieth year of service and look to why we continue to fight for fair and equitable housing, our CEO, Cheryl Lawrence, says it best,
"We will continue fighting for fair and equitable housing so that our suburbs represent our world. We are giving our kids a great education, and social justice is a big part of that. We want our kids to be proud of the community they grew up in and to come back to live with their kids. Everyone benefits from a more diverse community."
We thank those who have chosen us to help them navigate their fair housing issues and those who have supported us over these last fifty years. Open Communities does not exist without you.