These Chicago residents are trying to revitalize their neighborhood without gentrification

For decades, governments have favored rental housing for low-income Americans. North Lawndale is a test case of whether homeownership is a better bet.

CHICAGO — For decades, North Lawndale has been slipping into weedy neglect.

In 1966, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. moved his wife and four children into a dilapidated apartment here to highlight housing inequalities in Northern cities. Nearly 50 years later, when writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote his influential essay, “The Case for Reparations,” he started with the story of a North Lawndale homeowner. Today, the poverty rate is twice that of the rest of Chicago, and more than 2,000 lots in the neighborhood are vacant, many with a clear view of the crowded downtown skyline.