Moving ‘up’ isn’t as easy as you might think
By Krissy Clark Marketplace Wealth and Poverty Desk
The zip code you live in can have a big impact on your economic destiny, but moving can be hard.
Squirrels. If you have lived in a middle-class neighborhood for most of your life, you might take them for granted. But when Valerie Love and her 12-year-old daughter Jada recently moved to Albany Park on the north side of Chicago, squirrels were the first things they noticed.
Jada remembers how her mom began throwing jelly beans to the squirrels. “They was coming out from every direction,” her mom laughs.
Their old neighborhood, says Jada, had a different kind of wildlife. ”It had bugs,” she says.
Those aren’t the only differences between the Love’s old neighborhood and their new one. The old area was notorious for gun violence and riddled with abandoned buildings that made it look like “somebody took a grenade and blew up half the blocks,” said Valerie.
In contrast, Jada calls their new neighborhood “peaceful and clean.” And, Valerie adds, “There are no gangs hanging on the corner.”
Valerie is proud, too, of her shiny, new kitchen, which she says the landlord used as a big selling point. “He said it’s a European-style kitchen, microwave over the stove and a stainless steel refrigerator.”
From the shiny appliances to the squirrels, these new experiences are welcome for the Loves. But there are other adjustments involved in their recent move that have been hard and uncomfortable.
As an example, Valerie goes in to her bedroom, where she’s taped plastic over the windows for extra insulation in the cold winter. She says when her landlord visited, he told her he didn’t like the plastic, or the blanket, with the face of a tiger, that she’s hung over the door-way to the guest room. “He came here complaining about that, too,” she says.
It’s an unspoken thing, but even after seven months in their new world, it’s easy to feel judged by a landlord over decorating choices, and by new neighbors.
“In the back yard, everybody has grills on the porch,” says Valerie. But even so, she hasn’t met any of them. “I don’t socialize too much with the neighbors in the building,” she says. It’s clear she feels like an outsider.
The Loves moved to their new neighborhood as part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s “residential mobility program,” one of many such programs around the country. At the heart of these anti poverty initiatives is the simple notion that the zip code you live in can have a big impact on your economic destiny.
With that in mind, mobility programs help low-income families move from neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, struggling schools, and few economic opportunities to middle-class places where schools are often better — and, at least in theory, the opportunities are better, too.