A Shared Future: The Social and Economic Value of Intentional Integration Programs in Oak Park, IL

J. Robert Breymaier

The paper is a detailed discussion of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, which since 1972 has been working ensure that there is "meaningful and lasting racial diversity in Oak Park," a village of about 50,000 people located next to the West Side of Chicago. In addition to a variety of efforts to advance fair housing goals (particularly in rental housing), the Center has also promoted school integration by supporting policies such as redrawing school assignment zones for the village's elementary and creating two diverse middle schools that feed into the village's sole high school. Combined, these efforts have "transformed Oak Park from a 99 percent white community to a community that reflects the diversity of its metropolitan region," Breymaier contends. Moreover, the efforts have produced a more harmonious and a more prosperous community that not only "exhibits many of the qualities that fair housing and racial justice advocates hope to achieve elsewhere" but, he contends, can also serve as a replicable model for other communities.