Title: Community Wealth Building (CWB)

Policy Area: Community Development, Housing, Small Business

Team Members: Community Development, Housing, Small Business
Team Members: Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ), Department of Planning & Development (DPD), Department of Housing (DOH), Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protections (BACP), CWB Advisory Council

Problem Statement

Majority Black and Latinx neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago have been deliberately disinvested in through implicit and explicit racist policies from government and the private sector. As a result, residents do not own or control most of the assets in their neighborhoods (businesses, homes, land, commercial property, etc.). They are excluded from opportunities to build financial wealth, often shut out of development decisions, and at risk of displacement.

Reflection Questions
  • What do the words “community” and “wealth” mean to you?
  • In traditional private ownership models, what power dynamics exist? (Between business owners and employees? Landlords and tenants?)
  • What would it look like to create an economy based on the values of solidarity, democracy, and shared prosperity?
  • What creative models can you imagine that would allow historically resilient communities to have majority ownership and control over the assets in their community?

Quick Story

Reflect on our Past

The COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd brought to the surface unresolved pain and trauma from 400+ years of racist public and private policies and investments that have denied BIPOC communities an equitable stake in the ownership and control of society’s collective resources.

Reclaim our Present

OERJ has a vision of a democratic and reparative economy that gives everyone the ability to thrive without extracting from people or the environment in the process. The team narrowed their focus from inequitable economic development to “community wealth building,” a term first coined by The Democracy Collaborative. With guidance from local community leaders, the City of Chicago articulated a new definition: “an approach to economic development that promotes the local, democratic, and shared ownership and control of community assets.”

Reimagine our Future

In November 2021, Mayor Lightfoot announced a historic $15 million investment in a CWB pilot project as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.