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Onion Story On Humboldt Park Being 'Too Safe' To Afford Too Real For Locals

By Paul Biasco | September 1, 2015 8:29am
 Eileen Reyes, a 35-year-old lifelong resident of Logan Square, called the Onion piece
Eileen Reyes, a 35-year-old lifelong resident of Logan Square, called the Onion piece "funny because it's true."
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park is getting too safe for families to afford.

A story published Friday by The Onion based on that tongue-in-cheek sentiment spread like wildfire on Chicago social media Friday, garnering more than 9,300 shares and sparking dialogues citywide.

Of course the Onion is satire, but for many real longtime residents of Humboldt Park, its message carries some truth.

"You don't win either way," said 35-year-old Eileen Reyes, who was born in the neighborhood and has lived there her entire life. She said she's torn on the subject of gentrification in Humboldt Park.

"Yeah, it's getting rid of these gangs, but it's pushing people who have lived here the longest out," she said.

Paul Biasco discusses crime and rent in the neighborhood:

Reyes, who was sitting on a bench in the park with her 5-month old son Sebastian Monday afternoon, said it was a Catch-22 — the neighborhood is getting safer for her young children, but families might not be able to stay to experience it.

Reyes hadn't read the Onion story, but when she heard the actual headline "Neighborhood Starting To Get Too Safe For Family To Afford," she laughed.

"It's funny because it's true," she said.

Gentrification has been a divisive topic in West and Northwest side neighborhoods for a number of years as developers move into neighborhoods like Humboldt Park and Logan Square.

Rents and home prices are up, but as the Onion truthfully points out, crime is down.

Since 2003, the total number of crimes in Humboldt Park has dropped by 41.1 percent, according to the City of Chicago's data portal. During that same period the city's overall crime rate dropped by by 42.6 percent, according to the data.

It's been a visible and tangible drop, according to 35-year-old Anna Hutcheson who moved into the neighborhood 11 years ago.

Hutcheson, a wine sales representative, found herself an apartment in the neighborhood as a 25-year-old.

"I definitely didn't do a lot of walking around at night," she said.

Hutcheson's sentiment closely echoed a (made-up) quote in the Onion quote:

"When we first moved in seven years ago, we didn’t even feel like we could leave the house after dark, which was great for a family on a limited budget.”

The most notable decreases in crime in Humboldt Park are in assaults, batteries, burglaries, robberies and motor vehicle thefts.

Over a 10 year period from around the time Hutcheson moved in, assaults declined from 857 in 2005 to 530 in 2014, batteries fell from 3,013 to 1,694, burglaries dropped from 547 to 286, robberies dropped from 551 to 318 and motor vehicle thefts from 1,401 to 712.


This winter, Hutcheson is going to be spending her time looking for a new place to live, as her former landlord sold the six-unit building that she lives in earlier this year.

The new landlord is bumping up her rent from $650 to $950, although there are no renovations or upgrades planned for the building, according to Hutcheson.

"It's upsetting," she said.

Hutcheson isn't sure yet if she's going to stay in the neighborhood, saying it will depend on what's available.

A resident who lives in a unit bellow her is also being forced out due to the rent increase after living in the same apartment for 25 years.

"It was sad," Hutcheson said. "She was like 'do you have to move too?' I felt so bad for her."

A man across the hall already packed up and moved back to Puerto Rico due to the increase, according to Hutcheson.

The dramatic price increases facing the neighborhood aren't exclusive to the rental market.

The median home sale over a three month period between May 1 and July 31 in Humboldt Park was $292,000, according to a Redfin.com. Homes are on the market for an average of 19 days before being sold during the same period.

In 2013, the median home sale was $189,450, according to the real estate service.

"The more they build, the more people get pushed out," Reyes said.

Sixty-three-year-old Willie Snow is another long-time resident of the neighborhood who has felt the financial pinch.

Snow, a mother of five grown children, has been holding onto her three-bedroom Humboldt Park home for years, although all of her children have left the city for Kentucky.

"Once the new homes come in, the taxes triple," Snow said. 

While sitting on the rocky edge of the Humboldt Park lagoon fishing for catfish Monday, Snow disagreed that the neighborhood has gotten safer from the days of raising her children.

"It wasn't half as bad as it is now," Snow said. "I raised four boys and one girl and they made it. They wouldn't make it now. Kids these days have no morals."

Snow has owned her home since 1984 and is finally considering making the move to a more serene place, preferably by some water, she said.

Somewhere where she can cast a line on a whim.

"My kids are all out of state and they all say 'I'm not coming back ever,'" Snow said. "I'm about to get ready to go myself. The neighborhood is just not the same."

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