Fighting for fair and affordable housing
South Bend, Ind.—
The push for affordable housing continues in South Bend.
“There still is housing inequalities and so on, so we still need to carry on that fight,” said Gabrielle Robinson, author of Better Homes of South Bend
That fight spans generations in this city and South Bend common councilwoman Regina Preston-Williams is committed to joining the fight.
“There’s need everywhere. You know, everyone can use support and help,” said Williams. “We’re saying, it’s our turn, we’re saying let’s put that money and those dollars into those areas where we have not invested in so long.”
There’s a movement growing inside the county city building and it’s aimed at bringing equity to neighborhoods haunted by missed opportunities.
“Those areas where those tax dollars for those residents have really been funneled to other places,” said
Over the past five years, the most prominent place for investment has been downtown South Bend.
Councilwoman Williams is determined to spread the development boom to forgotten neighborhoods around town.
“We began bringing this to the community, what it’s become now and we’re calling it 100 homes and 500 families,” she said.
It’s a program that will identify target areas in need of restoration.
It will then build new homes in the lots that were leveled during the “1000 Homes in 1000 Days Initiative.”
It will also provide funding, resources and support for homeowners in surrounding houses, in order to keep them in the revitalized neighborhoods.
“Development without displacement,” said Williams. “What that means is we have to make sure we’re providing affordable housing options for everyone.”
The city’s push for fair and affordable housing started in the 1950s in the Elmer and Keller neighborhood.
A group of African Americans working at the Studebaker plant organized, demanding better housing options after being redlined by banks.
“Not only did they succeed in building 22 homes in what was then a white neighborhood but they created such a vibrant community,” said Robinson.
In the book Better Homes of South Bend, Robinson chronicled the group’s five-year-fight to build homes in their dream neighborhoods.
Robinson reunited with Nola Allen Thursday night—the daughter of Arnold Allen—one of the organizers back then.
She, too, faced that struggle firsthand.
“I know what housing what not available to them, i know what they went through to get better homes going and to see them, move into their new homes and to see them live long enough to pay it off,” said Allen.
Leroy Cobb also fought on the front lines.
He still owns a couple of homes in the neighborhood.
“I’m excited for uncle Leroy,” said Crystal Saunders, Cobb’s neice.
Today, Cobb’s niece lives in one of his homes.
“You can’t even really imagine that so I’m just glad I got a chance to listen to his story and now I guess I get to live it,” she said.
She’s living in his legacy and living on a block that will soon be remembered as South Bend history.
Saturday, June 8 at 11 am Mayor Pete Buttigieg will mark the neighborhood a historic district.
He’ll also honor the men and women who started the city’s fight for fair housing.
“You have to have courage, persistence and patience, and you have to organize,” said Robinson.