The October 18, 2008 Forum on Olympic Impacts on Affordable Housing in Hyde Park-Kenwood and beyond

Convened by the Coalition for Equitable Community Development, cosponsored by several organizations including Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, South Siders Organized for Unity and Liberation, and the other institutional-organizational members of CECD.

CECD's website:
CECD's brochure in pdf.
CECD's issue paper on Olympics and Housing, by itself.
This site's page related the work of CECD. Affordable Housing home.

Report on the meeting by Gary Ossewaarde
Pat Wilcoxen's report in Hyde Park Herald, November 5, 2008
Chicago Weekly coverage
Distributed documents beside the brochures and CECD issues paper


The October 18 2008 CECD forum, Olympic impacts on affordable housing in OUR Neighborhood

By Gary Ossewaarde

Pat Wilcoxen, president, convened the forum at 10 pm, thanking Augustana Church for its hospitality. She briefly described how the organization emerged from faith groups.

Committee reports:

Affordable Housing Advocacy. Chair Linda Thisted recited and explained the Issue Paper on Impact of Olympics on Affordable Housing, which asks for specific set aside commitments in the Olympic Village and for all developments within a two-mile range of the Village and the Stadium should Chicago's bid succeed. Thisted also reviewed successes in gaining set asides from local developers and gave some of the challenges to affordability in coming years.

Research Committee. New chair Mark Granfors described means to understand and map the housing types, ownership, and costs in the neighborhood.

Membership and Fundraising. At the end of the meeting, Chair John Murphy explained that the organization is a membership-based (institution/organization and individual) 501c3 and that dues and gifts will definitely help.


Gyata Kimmons, community liaison for Chicago2016 outlined the next steps, including final bid book in February 2009 (600 pages), visit from International Olympics Committee teams in April 2009, and decision announcement October 2. Kimmons said their eyes are on making a better--and more sports and fitness oriented--Chicago, and what it will look like after the Olympics. He said the parks were chosen not just because free but would not involve displacement and had opportunities for useful legacies. Legacies, starting from now, will include education, sports, and fitness for youth; infrastructure, transportation, development, and housing (the latter mainly the Olympic Village). Location of the Olympic Village is unsettled due to ongoing negotiations with MedLife, the owner of the land of Michael Reese. Goal is mixed private-public-foundations development for mixed use housing and retail and will involve ongoing job training. Major planning partners are CMAP, CDOT, MacArthur Foundation, and Tribune-McCormick Foundation.

Allen Sanderson is senior lecturer in Economics at University of Chicago, concentrating on the economics of sports, and a Hyde Parker. Sanderson pointed out the rule of scarcity--people and cities have to chose where to invest resources, and that any change or happening is likely to bring at least some disruption. He thinks there will be winners and losers in neighborhoods, as there will be in any case. We should make sure improvements really are that and bring increased value to the locales and city. He expects there will be on average overall benefit, but we should pay attention how the inevitable balancing act between "efficiency" and "equity" plays out, for everyone. We have a responsibility to help those who could be made worse off by this or any change. He also reminded us that the job of Chicago2016 is first to sell the games. It's an interest group. It's everyone else's job to "kick the tires."

John MacAloon is an associate dean in the Social Sciences Division at U of C who has studied the impacts of 13 previous games and whose perspective is anthropological-- he prefers to look at effects and involvement of specific people and groups he has met rather than at aggregates. He said effects will be different within each distinct neighborhood. He advises the Olympics Committee.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said that first of all the Olympics is an opportunity to showcase the city, Midwest and communities. She praised the choice of a place where there are not preexisting people to displace, especially for the Village. She said providing affordable housing even in the Village, especially at the 1/3 level CECD is asking will be very difficult. Three recent projects in her ward did-- because they were Hope/CHA transformation programs that involved heavy federal infusion through layers of funding -- including $12 million in infrastructure upgrade before a shovel was turned for construction.
The Olympic Village (which she prefers to be on the Michael Reese site) will become a TIF district, so the 20% affordable commitment is in the document, along with strong Women and Minorities Business and job training/50% local hires provisions. But all had to be fought hard for. She is receptive to having an advisory council for the TIF, and noted there are working groups in the large rebuild areas mentioned previously.
She noted that the Olympic Committee is playing its cards very close to the vest, with confidentiality agreements, subcommittee she got people on but that don't meet, a "corporate" model but with weak interfacing with the city. Will this change after the bid?

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th). Hairston said her ward has little open land except for parks, so she is putting emphasis on preserving the housing stock and its affordability, including creating a watch list and other means. She is particularly worried about aging buildings, especially higher ones where people bought their units long ago but taxes and assessments are rising--maybe above resale value, and the buildings are vulnerable to developers buying them up and displacing the occupants. She also notes that for quite a while realty values were held down by the struggling surrounding areas-- this ended in the 1990s. There are also many troubled buildings with a succession of owners. Creating and keeping affordable units is a great problem citywide, she said, which has been made worse by how the Plan of Transformation has been carried out.
She is very concerned about Olympic impact--adding to the existing pressures, and the looming possibility of great disruption with the Olympics themselves-- how are all these people to be gotten in and out? With or without them, people need access to transportation, jobs, and much else. Olympics could help spur local plan, for example along the Stony Island and Metra corridors. She also said it is very hard to find out what 2016 is planning on doing. As for housing, she said that there is a Florida Model of planning to help people 10 and older stay in their houses and communities and there are developers in the area aware of this need.

The floor was opened to questions.

SharonJoy Jackson addressed ongoing as well as Olympic needs re: parking and traffic, need to fix up lakefront and parks, the 'Iowa' building as an opportunity now an eyesore. Will you work with and help the Park District?
Kimmons said there will be no provision of parking (or by implication Olympics amelioration of existing parking problems), at least some areas will be permitted without allowing people to bring a flock of guests with cars, and there will be other restrictions on outside access.
Kimmons said the plan is to use the Olympics to ratchet up school fitness, sports-opportunity (and science-in-sports like is starting now), and after school academics and this involves much more use of the parks-- that has to be fixed up, as do the parks. (He did not say where the Olympics or long-range money is coming from.)

Another expressed skepticism there would be minimum impact for those who live close to venues. Kimmons seemed to think the limits on vehicular load will work. Hairston expressed skepticism, citing the mess with shuttling and street congestion at the DNC in Denver. Our streets cannot handle that kind of load and the buses are environmentally unfriendly-- and after Dan Ryan the state reneged on repairing damage.

MacAloon said Denver was unprepared and is a poor example. He said Chicago has to have a good plan or it won't even get the Olympics. His estimate is that we will not get hoards of traffic, car or foot, on the sides streets and will hardly know the Olympics are going on. Hairston reiterated lack of state support on traffic, transportation, public safety --unless the Feds will help we can expect neither a good experience or improvements left behind. He noted there has to be an integrated team working on this. It was noted that 2016 does not yet have a director for legacies and impacts

Someone who works with income and housing issues to the north (SOUL?) asked for more information on impact on moderate income people for housing and potential for pricing or pressure displacement, citing reported problems with this in other Olympic venues. Panelists said there was little displacement even in Atlanta except by Turner Stadium; much poor condition housing was replaced there with better, and the Chicago Olympics has no direct displacement or removals. Sanderson said displacement and development in Barcelona were not related to the Olympics.

Harold Lucas said Bronzeville residents and housing can't help but be affected; how can existing be better rather than be displaced. MacAloon talked about an ongoing multi-year Cultural Olympics now underway. There was general agreement that ways have to be found to break cycles of poverty.

Joe Harlan said Chicago is way behind needs and other cities on housing, transportation and more-- how is that pattern going to be broken, and, given how this city operates, what confidence can we have that things will be handled well? And if so, where is the money coming from without the taxpayers being stung. Kimmons responded that they will work with the city departments and agencies, and he has had issues also, and have to develop lots of partnerships. They are committed to outreach.

Another asked who is in charge of the legacy component. And how much aldermanic and community involvement has there really been. Kimmons said they are selecting a legacy leader (some dismay in the audience) and are "taking back" ideas from meetings such as this. Preckwinkle said there needs to be a city Olympics office to interface with 2016 on legacies, transportation, and living wage. She said there has be a legacies director before February.

Ellie Hall asked whether the kind of housing (i.e. unit size) needed for the Olympic Village will preclude or make expensive re conversion to kinds of housing needed in the community. MacAloon said that the IOC requires spacious suites and kitchens, and housing that is occupant-ready when the Olympics is over.

An East Hyde Park resident again stressed parking concerns and need to preserve our already existing legacy of open land and good parks-- she feared displacement of teams and recreational use in for example Washington Park for and after the Olympics, and that the residual stadium will be a displacement, and would its use be affordable. (Moderator Wilcoxen again asked that questions focus on the topic, housing).
MacAloon said all facilities will go back to the Park District and not to private use. He said there is a big worldwide drop in recreation adn fitness world wide. He hopes such initiatives as World Sports Chicago will help counteract this. Kimmons said there will be more recreation and fitness in Washington Park after the Olympics. The asker said that lots of facilities are being poured into Lincoln Park but nearby Lincoln High as an example.

Joan Staples said there needs to be more bottom-up planning and that this city wastes too much time "finding things out." She also asked a follow up community meeting on Olympics that would include the University and its plans and involvement including land purchases (some expression of conflict of interests in the University of Chicago.)

Sanderson was asked how can we make the Olympics a best. He noted Olympic and new stadium cities don't do well financially on these deals. Waste and demands from interest groups abound. He was encouraged that the city is committed not to overspend; it can be OK.

Another asked about an Olympic acceleration of displacement through gentrification and bidding up of land values; is there an intent to "bring in the rich?" Preckwinkle said there are checks, and the venues are in land that will go back to parkland or are vacant of people and will siphon off some of the land demand. She doubted there would be any mass displacement but said there needs to be means to help with the cost pressures on people.
Other panelists generally felt there would be little impetus from the Olympics for such bid-up or tear downs-- only a fool will do that for a two-week party--those who tried that in Atlanta lost their shirts. Obama's election, MacAloon and Sanderson said, would be more likely to have an effect than the Olympics.

Alison Hartman reiterated that seniors are already under pressure as to whether they can stay, citing findings of the Older Women's League. Preckwinkle agreed that there is considerable affordable seniors housing on the western edge of the neighborhood but not in Hyde Park.

The meeting was adjourned before noon.

Report by President Pat Wilcoxen, Hyde Park Herald, November 5, 2008

Olympics debated in Hyde Park forum

Nearly 100 community residents came out on a recent Saturday morning to hear experts and elected officials talk about the effects of he 2016 Olympics on the community if Chicago is awarded the games.

Two University of Chicago professors, John MacAloon and Allen Sanderson, talked about the impact on the cost of housing should Chicago host the 2016 Olympics. MacAloon serves as an advisor to the Chicago 2016 committee and favors the Chicago bid. Sanderson, an economist, is skeptical about any significant economic benefit to the city from hosting the Olympics. Gyata Kimmons of the Chicago 2916 committee, as well as Alds. Toni Preckwinkle (5th) also addressed the subject.

I am the president of the Coalition for Equitable Community Development and served as the panel moderator. I laid out the community's concerns about the impact of the Olympics on our housing. Other cities, such as Atlanta, saw whole neighborhoods displaced for the games. I told the panel that the Hyde Park and Kenwood communities want assurances that this will not happen here. I told them we need safeguards to protect our economic diversity -- and that starts with preserving affordable housing.

"No private property will be taken," was the assurance given by both MacAloon and Kimmons. All of the facilities (that is, stadiums and the Olympic Village) will be bu9lt on land that is already city-owned. It is possible that housing for the athletes will be built on the site of now-closed Michael Reese Hospital. Sanderson pointed out that the games wil only last two weeks and that most of the visitors will be staying at downtown hotels. "No one is going to get rich by leasing out their house for two weeks that summer," he said.

Both aldermen were critical of the planning process -- or rather lack of planning process -- provided by Chicago 12016. In particular, Preckwinkle noted the failure to hire liaison staff to work with the Mayor's Office and the City Council. A number of residents expressed concern about the impact on housing prices, transportation, parking and the potential of the city taking private property for the games.

Ballot initiative in precincts ringing Washington park calls for lots for affordable housing while forum in Hyde Park looks for alleviations. It passed.

This Oct. 30 Chicago Weekly article tells what was in the referendum recently passed in several precincts, although not actual text. It also discusses the Oct. 18 forum. Gary

Chicago Weekly, October 30, 2008. By Laura Mattison, Perspectives: Restraining Zeus- How a local ballot initiative is attempting to control Mayor Daley's Olympian Actions

....One local issue concerns Chicago's prospective hosting of the 2016 Olympics. Voters in certain precincts in Wards 2, 3, 4, and 20 can encourage Mayor Daley and the Chicago 2016 Committee to use part of any potential Olympic windfall to benefit Bronzeville residents. The ballot initiative asks that at least 26% of the city's vacant lots in Bronzeville be used for affordable housing for moderate-income residents. Generally, "affordable" means residents are spending no more than 30% of their gross (before taxes) income on housing. Moderate-income residents earn between 80% and 120% of Chicago's Median Income, targeting the middle class.

The initiative is meant to partially address a major fear many residents have about the prospect of Chicago hosting the 2016 Olympics. Despite the economic and infrastructural benefits Chicago might experience, many people worry that there could be negative impacts on things like housing and transportation for moderate- and low-income residents of South Side neighborhoods. Because the Olympic Stadium would be located in Washington Park, neighborhoods like Hyde Park and Bronzeville would be especially affected by the 2016 Games. Although the proposed stadium would be a temporary fixture, even that short term structure could have a long-term impact. Groups like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless believe that low-income and vulnerable groups may be rolled over in the Olympic fever that often takes over the chosen city.

While no one expects the degree of widespread evictions witnessed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chicago residents have valid fears that they may be priced out of their neighborhoods. Other cities have faced this problem of displacement as the Olympics have become a larger and larger event. In efforts to spread the benefits of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Vancouver recently approved the Olympic Legacy Affordable Housing project to create movable modular housing units. The 320 temporary housing units will form part of the Olympic Village and later be moved to other communities to become permanent affordable housing. Hyde Park's Coalition for Equitable Community Development advocates a similar measure to minimize the displacement of area residents by making a third of the Olympic Village units into affordable housing after the "two-week-party" is over.

The opportunities and risks that the Olympics may bring to Chicago were discussed by Hyde Park residents at a recent forum convened by the Coalition for Equitable Community Development at Augustana Lutheran Church. The forum took place on October 18th, and was cosponsored by several local organizations, including the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and South Siders Organized for Unity and Liberation. Residents spoke about their concerns to speakers, including the community liaison for Chicago 2016 and two aldermen. With issues ranging from parking to gentrification, area residents expressed hopes that a Chicago Olympics could improve the city, and fears that they might not benefit from those improvements.

There are always huge structural changes when a city hosts the Olympics. There may be urban revitalization, as areas of the city are completely transformed by massive public works projects. The boom in tourism and advertising infuses local businesses and large corporations with huge amounts of money. When all these changes have taken place, a city can find itself transformed. Often the biggest changes are seen in areas considered "underutilized," throwing the lives of nearby already disadvantaged people into further chaos. How can we make sure that these people are not trampled in the ensuing Olympic madness? Is a non-binding resolution to recommend some provisions for middle income housing anywhere near enough?

Cities are always changing. Whether it is "white flight" or gentrification, a new influx of immigrants or technological upheaval, American cities have witnessed waves of change that each left their mark. If Chicago receives the mixed blessing of the 2016 Olympics, no one can deny that there will be major changes, in both the economic and physical structure of the city. The government and Mayor Daley must be careful to ensure that all benefit. A large public works project like hosting the Games is no experiment in the free market. The city is responsible for the changes it enacts, and it must recognize its obligations to assist all people hurt by its Olympian efforts. Top



The following papers by others were also available at the meeting.

Position Paper:

Issue: Impact of Olympics on Affordable Housing. View this Paper by itself.

Many residents are concerned that the 2016 Olympics, if they are held in Chicago, will have a negative impact on the affordability of housing in th Hyde Park-Kenwood Community as well as other areas adjacent to Olympic venues.

Based on the experience of other host cities (such as Atlanta and Barcelona), CECD believes that this is a real concern. we are working with other community organizations to create a Community Benefits Agreement that wil address issues such as housing affordability. The CECD board of directors has approved the following position statement on the issue:

CECD's Position

To minimize economic displacement of families living in the area:

1. Mandate that at least 1/3 of Olympic Village units be made into affordable housing after the Olympics.

  • For-sale units affordable to people earning 80% of AMI. (e.g. a one-bedroom unit affordable to someone currently earning $41,700 per year. A two-bedroom unit affordable to a family of three currently earning $53,650 per year.)
  • Rental units affordable to people earning 60% of AMI. (e.g. a none bedroom unit affordable to someone earning $31,680 per year. A two-bedroom unit affordable to a family of three earning $40,740 per year.)
  • "Affordable" is defined to mean that a family spends no more than 30% of its income on housing.


2. If a TIF is created for the Olympic Village, create an advisory council of local residents and make affordable housing a priority for TIF funds.

3. For all developments approved after October 2, 2009 within two miles of the Olympic Village or the Olympic stadium, require 20% affordable housing set aside (see attached map). This is an increase over the current city ordinance that requires a 10% affordable set aside for new residential construction.

[A map was attached drawing a two mile radius around the Olympic Village and Olympic Stadium. Hyde Park, Kenwood are included in the Stadium circle.]



Negotiating for Neighborhoods: Interventions in Olympic Impact in Sydney and Vancouver

From Chicago Rehab Network, 2008. Photo not included: The 2000 Olympic Village in Sydney, constructed with environments concerns in mind, built on the city's concept of hosting the first "Green Olympics."

Sydney and Vancouver, hosts of the 2000 Summer Games and the 2010 Winter games, respectively, both established organizations to monitor the social impacts of the Olympics. For citizens and advocates, both provide models for overseeing Olympics-driven development, and offer perspective on possibilities for equitable outcomes for the Games and residents. The two groups, though similar in aim, differed greatly in scope, composition, and organization. Despite the differences outlined below, groups both in Sydney and Vancouver established agreements to benefit neighborhoods and learned from the difficulty [ies of?] compliance with existing or agreed upon goals.

Additionally, a new international Olympic Committee initiative called the Olympic Games Impact (OGI) will change the climate of impact analysis and mitigation by formalizing the procedure. Created in 2003, OGI requires host cities to report on 125 impact indicators for a twelve year span before, during and after the Games. Beijing 2008 will be the first Games to provide a formal postGames analysis, and Vancouver will be the first host to undertake full OGI requirements, the first of which will be due shortly. While OGI will force hosts to consider impacts more fully, the test of its efficacy will have to wait until the release of its first reports.

Sydney and the Social Impact Advisory Committee (SIAC)

The 2000 Sydney Games promised a new look at Olympic hosting as the first Games of the 21st century. In some ways, they achieved a new approach, building venues on abandoned, government-owned land, including green features in their building, and prioritizing treatment of minorities and homeless in the city's plan for managing the Olympics' impact. As one of the first hosts to focus on impacts, Sydney may have some claim to its reputation as the first "Green Games" as well as then-OIC President Juan Antonio Samaranch's famous line in which he called the 2000 Games "The Best Olympics Ever."

So what did the best Olympics ever look like? After Sydney secured the bid to host the Games, the government of New South Wales commissioned a Social Impact Assessment, which made 37 diverse recommendations on mitigating social impact, including the establishment of a committee to monitor and advise on those impacts. Thus, the Social Impact Advisory Committee was born.

SIAC maintained a diverse composition, including members of Sydney's advocacy community, members of SOCOG, -- the Sydney Organizing Committee for Olympic Games -- and members of city and provincial government. The committee met twice yearly from 1994 until the games were over, making recommendations and discussing progress on Olympic development.

The influence of the SIAC eventually led to the establishment of the Homeless Protocol, a guideline for police interaction to ensure that the homeless residents fo Sydney were treated equitably. The Protocol remains a positive legacy that is still in use today in Sydney. This protocol affirmed the right of all citizens to enjoy Sydney's public spaces, and prevented harassment of the homeless by police, an occurrence common during previous Olympics.

Still, the SIAC suffered from problems that plague many monitoring organizations, that they garner advisory power but have little in the way of leverage or mandate for actual change. Rev. Harry Herbert, the chair of the SIAC, expressed this frustration, saying, "It seems to be a case of government saying the biggest measures are too dangerous and the smallest aren't worth doing!" Pointedly, the government's lack of action and plan for homelessness, and SRO housing topped Herbert's list of concerns.

The Games monitoring environment in Sydney experienced fluctuation, as a splinter group formed just before the Games began to call attention to the lack of progress the organizing committee had made in securing positive social impacts. Rating the positive impacts at a 5 out of 10, the Council of Social Services of New South Wales adn its Olympic Impact Committee (OIC) arm criticized the organizers and government for "[failing] to stop the loss of low cost accommodation," and further, that "other figures [that showed] big rent increases in the Olympic Corridor, contradict the Government's claim of no Olympics-related rent effects."

Vancouver and the Impact on Communities Coalition (IOCC)

The Vancouver Olympics have garnered a great deal of attention for their emphasis on sustainability and commitment to host a Games that does little to displace community members. Crucial to this reputation was the Impact on Communities Coalition (IOCC), which drafted 22 recommendations for positive social impact that Vancouver's bid committee eventually included in the guarantees section of their final "bid book."

The IOCC differentiated itself from the SIAC right from the beginning in a number of key ways. IOCC was formed before the bid, and thus was able to advance some of its concerns and create a direction in the bid itself, rather than simply reacting to development. Also, the IOCC is a member organization with on ties to the Olympic organizing committee, VANOC, or the bid committee. The IOCC has also benefited organizationally from its unity of message -- perhaps owing to a somewhat more homogenous group of members -0- focusing throughout its seven year history on the seven areas of environment, security and safety, community and economic development, civil rights, housing, transportation, adn accountability and transparency.

The IOCC has commissioned several academic works that aim to tease out potential impacts from the Games, while also conducting public opinion and market research. While much of IOCC's work has focused on research on those seven issues, community participation bolsters their resume as well; they wil host as community forum on each of their seven platform issues by the time the Games begin in February of 2010.

Vancouver's non-sport legacy focuses on a tract of abandoned shipping and industrial land called Southeast False Creek (SEFC), which will host the Olympic village during the Games and be converted to a mixed-income, mixed-use development after the Games. The SEFC project forms the centerpiece of an agreement between advocates and VANOC called the Inner-City Inclusive (ICI) agreement. The ICI broadly states VANOC's intent to prioritize inner-city redevelopment for the 2010 Games legacy. In addition to that agreement, advocates and the SEFC developer have signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), guaranteeing first-source hiring, job-training programs, and affordable housing.

And while the SEFC project appeared to provide wide and deep benefits to the community, developers have already scaled back the affordability commitments of the housing units. Millennium Water, as the housing development will be known after the Games, will sell condo units from $450,000 to $6,000,000, quite unaffordable for many residents.

Next steps for Chicago Olympics Impact

How will our city, known for a rich tradition of community development and organizing, demonstrate the best monitoring and advancement of what are serious social impact concerns. Will the bid establish and independent committee pulled from all of Chicago's diverse communities and expertise? Will the committee have the ability and [be able to] keep the Olympics development process transparent[?]


Chicago Coalition for the Homeless cites Geneva report to say Olympics do impact affordable housing, homeless people and housing rights

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Fall, 2008, based on "Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights" by Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Geneva Switzerland

As Chicago waits to hear whether our city will be chosen to host the 2016 Olympics, it is important for housing advocates to be aware of how housing rights have been impacted in other Olympic host cities around the globe. While the Olympics are an opportunity to showcase a city to the world, the development that comes with hosting the games can often have very negative consequences, particularly for poor and marginalized people. Looking at the past 20 years of experiences of Olympic host cities, what is revealed are some rather devastating impacts on housing rights. In fact, all cities that have hosted the Olympic Games suffer similar negative consequences. The following information looks at experience of the following Olympic host cities:

Seoul, Korea, 1988
Barcelona, Spain, 1992 [experts say the changes were related to entry the European Union, not Olympics]
Atlanta, Georgia, 1996
Sydney, Australia, 2002
Athens, Greece, 2004
Beijing, China, 2008

Why do the Olympics lead to a violation of housing rights?

Hosting a major international event causes a certain fervor in Olympic host cities that often overrides the needs and input of local communities. Studies of the experiences of these cities have revealed some common experiences, including:

Key Housing impacts in Olympic Host Cities:

  1. Displacement and forced evictions of communities to make way for construction of Olympics-related infrastructure or related to gentrification.
    In Seoul in the five years before the Olympics, 48,000 buildings that housed 720,000 people were demolished for redevelopment. Ninety percent of the people evicted did not receive replacement housing within the redevelopment site. The use of violence was common in these evictions as developers hired private security companies to forcibly remove people from their homes. Violent acts included demolishing homes and setting fires close to where people were still living, as well as sexual and physical assaults of protesting tenants.
    In Beijing since 2000, as many as 1.5 million people have been evicted to make way for Olympic stadiums and new infrastructure. While many are compensated adequately, an estimated 20 percent have ended up in worse conditions, far from jobs and needed services. Many evictions were violent. In the Hujialou neighborhood where residents resisted, a demolition-relocation company tried to force the resident to leave by making their homes uninhabitable --removing windows and safety doors, breaking down walls, cutting off heat and electricity, scattering debris and even defecating in entryways.
    It should be noted that gentrification and redevelopment due to the Olympics are not just byproducts of hosting the event, but in many cases a motivating factor in bringing the Olympics to a city. For example, Atlanta's bid to host the Olympic /Games was spearheaded by a commercial real estate lawyer, Billy Payne, and supported by business groups. Payne and these groups wanted to control development in the city and drive poor communities from the center of the city.
  2. Escalation of housing costs.
    Rents in Barcelona increased by 145 percent between 1986 and 1993 due to redevelopment for the 1992 Olympics. In Seoul, as residents were evicted from their homes, thousands of people sought alternative low-cost housing in the surrounding areas. This huge increase in demand drove up housing costs fivefold in some areas.
  3. Reduction in the availability of low-cost or public housing.
    I Atlanta, a public housing development called Techwood Clark Howell was redeveloped with a net loss of 800 public housing units. Over 3,330 people total, were evicted with only 44 percent receiving relocation assistance. In total, more than 2,000 units of public housing were lost during Olympic development in Atlanta and 5,813 residents were displaced. In Barcelona, the number of new public housing units created fell from 2,647 in 1986 to just 9 in 1992.
  4. "Cleansing" operations to remove homeless people from visible locations and criminalization of homelessness. In Atlanta, a local nonprofit received thousands of dollars in local government grants to purchase one-way bus tickets to send homeless people to Alabama and Florida. Atlanta also passed a series of laws called Quality of Life Ordinances the year after it won the Olympic bid. These laws criminalized sleeping in abandoned buildings, begging and walking through parking lots if one did not own a car. These new laws resulted in 9,000 arrest citations issued to homeless people in one year's time, more than four times the normal. However, it wa reported that judges were reluctant to enforce the laws because of questionable constitutionality. It was learned that police in Atlanta pre-printed arrest citations stating the following information: African-American, Male, Homeless. This resulted in a lawsuit which force police to stop arresting people without probable cause.
    In Seoul, a facility was built 50 kilometers outside the city in the style of a prison camp to house 1,000 homeless people, poor people and people with addictions and mental illness.
  5. Introduction of special legislation to help facilitate preparations for the Olympics, including measures to make it easier to take private property, to target homeless people, to increase police power and restrict freedom of assembly.
    In Sydney, two acts were passed that gave police power to remove people from public areas the city wanted cleaned up for the Olympics. The laws also gave private security guards special powers of enforcement. The legislation made it possible to remove people from an area for indecent language or for causing "an annoyance or inconvenience." They also made it illegal to collect money, sleep overnight or use a skateboard or roller skates.
  6. Discrimination against marginalized groups.
    In Athens, people of Romani ethnic origin were targeted for relocation. An estimated 2,700 Roma were adversely affected by the Olympics. Many were forcibly evicted. Others who had lived for many years in destitute settlements were promised relocation to better housing only to find the relocation plans abandoned because they would be in sight of Olympic visitors.

How can these housing impacts be avoided in future Olympic host cities?

Olympic host cities must agree to follow the principles laid out in the Olympic Charter and the Code of Ethics. The Olympic Charter is the overarching constitutional instrument of the Olympics and it binds all persons and organizations involved in the Olympics. Several of those principles are relevant to respecting housing rights including "the promise to safeguard the dignity of the individual, the obligation not to discriminate, the promotion of sustainable development and of a positive legacy, and the commitment to fight against poverty and exclusion." In addition, the human right to housing is included in many sources of existing international human rights law unrelated to the Olympics. ( See CCH policy paper, Is Housing a Human Right?

If Olympic host cities were to adhere truly to these principles, the described human rights violations should not have happened. Communities impacted by the Olympics should work to hold their cities accountable to these binding agreements.
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, an independent non-government, non-profit housing rights organization, recommends the following for Olympic host cities:

Also available was Op Ed from Allen Sanderson in the April 22 2008 Chicago Tribune, Consider the Options, and The Tail is Already Wagging Our Dog. These are summarized in the Olympics homepage.