The Death of Chicago’s Gayborhood: Early Violent Summer Crime, Plummeting Property Value, Tax Increases Force Boystown Residents to Flee

May 30, 2023

Three separate shooting incidents in three days might be the last straw for a rising number of Boystown, East Lakeview, and Wrigleyville residents

A thriving gay community remains critical to any major city. From ground breaking galleries to innovative restaurants, gay communities anchor the artistic and creative side of any urban environment.

Plus they’re fun, whether you’re gay or not.

A city without a thriving LGB community simply does not count as a city (we’ll hold the “T” thank you very much – as do the silent majority of LGB community members who know this is an Icarus-level narcissistic affront to the very existence of being gay or lesbian, let alone being human).

There is a well-known rule in real estate: If a buyer remains unsure as to the quality of a neighborhood, ask where the gays live. If the gay community has arrived, the neighborhood probably qualifies as safe, if not up and coming.

Gays and lesbians often serve as the “first in” to emerging, cool areas before they rise in value. But the corollary to this is they’re also often the “first out” as well — a FIFO accounting reference.

In Chicago, Boystown and East Lakeview have iconic roots for more than four decades – a neighborhood where everyone got along and had a great time day and night (despite the occasional pile-of-vomit on the streets and doorways after a wild night out).

But recent economic and real estate data suggest the wealth (and jobs) have and continue to pour out of this community as property taxes hit the stratospheric level and as crime continues unchecked by a city government and attorney general’s office which long ago turned its back on citizens across the city by treating criminals as the victims.

Crime really has become the main issue driving people from the community. Two hundred fewer officers in the 19th District on patrol, compared with just a few years back, has not helped to slow the rise in crime.

Lakeview crime (and no punishment)

The lack of policing manpower combined with Kim Foxx’s and Toni Preckwinkle’s (and now Brandon Johnson’s) approach to confusing criminals with victims from a prosecutorial perspective, continues to have a direct impact on the number of criminal acts committed in East Lakeview.

From the period May 23rd (Tuesday) to May 27th (Saturday), the following violent crimes occurred in East Lakeview and Boystown.

  • A 35-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest in the 500 block of West Surf Street.
  • Three men were wounded in a shooting in the 3000 block of North Halsted Street. One of the victims was a 23-year-old man, and the other two victims were 25 and 27 years old.
  • A 35-year-old man was shot and critically injured on the corner of Melrose and Broadway. 
  • A 52-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint in the 1500 block of West Waveland Avenue.
  • Three people were robbed at gunpoint in the 600 block of West Cornelia Avenue. One of the victims was a 22-year-old woman, and the other two victims were 24 and 26 years old.

The Boystown community on Next Door is aghast at the situation. Here are a few recent quotes, including from a victim of another violent crime in the same period that was not reported.

“Folks, in case you haven't realized what has transpired in the past few days: Four nights, three shootings in Lake View. Summer hasn't even started, and we are starting to see crime occur at an unprecedented rate in unprecedented areas. There is certainly a dark problem looming above us all. Stay safe out there. We are going to really see the power of the social worker in the coming years,” neighborhood male.
“Between crime and cost of living, I have no reason to stay in Chicago. So sad to see the city, even safe neighborhoods, succumb to the crime. I decided to move away after being physically assaulted in broad daylight (7:00 AM) last week on Clark and Roscoe,” neighborhood female.
“2nd burglary of garage in two days. OK round two! Burglary AGAIN Monday at 6 p.m. Another bike and stuff gone. And I was home both times. This time he/they came in a totally locked down garden and broke the garage window and then the pedestrian door. Stole second bike and stuff and lifted it over a fence as the locked gates were intact.  I’ve been here 49 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” neighborhood male.
“Talked to Neighbors. 4 of 5 had burglaries in 2.5 weeks. They did not report,” neighborhood male.

Economic and Population Outflows

Jane Jacobs, who wrote the iconic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, notes: “Crime can be prevented by creating vibrant and livable neighborhoods.” Further, she observes: The best way to prevent crime is to encourage people to take ownership of their neighborhoods.”

But what happens when the community “gives up” for whatever reason?

The answer is simple: They leave. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau*, the population of the Boystown and East Lakeview area has declined by 10 percent since 2010 (and 5 percent since 2020). Google Bard suggests this decline has resulted in a loss of $100 million in tax revenue for the city of Chicago ($50 million specifically since 2020).

Tourism to the area has also declined, by an average of 5 percent since 2010. This has led to a loss of $20 million in tourism revenue for the city – the largest percentage of which has been in recent years.

The loss of businesses has been even more pronounced, with over 500 businesses closing in the area since 2010. This has led to the loss of over 10,000 jobs (5,000 since 2020).

According to Zillow, the median home value in East Lakeview was $445,000 in April 2021, and $426,000 in April 2023. This represents a decrease of 4.5 percent over two years.

However, in recent years, according to the Cook County Assessor's Office, property taxes in East Lakeview and Boystown in Chicago have increased by an average of 18.7 percent between 2018 and 2023.

The issue of reduced property value and higher taxes is, literally, bleeding homeowners dry. Contrarian spoke to one former property owner in Lakeview, who owned a “large condo” east of Halsted who took a bath “of over 50 percent” on a recent transaction based on his “all-in” costs.

“At least I proactively converted it to an investment property to take the loss,” the homeowner asserted.

The property investor observes: “The appraised value at the start of 2020 was over $1 million. We sold it for half that, even though property taxes increased over 30 percent in the same period.”

Another long-time condo owner in the same area who spent close to a million on a restoration in a prewar unit “lost over 50 percent” of what they had put into the property in a recent transaction – before moving out of state and taking the loss.

Another recent commercial transaction signals the headwinds the real estate market faces just blocks from Halsted. According to Crain's, “The developers of an apartment and retail complex across from Wrigley Field have taken a big loss on the property, selling it in late April for $100 million, about $80 million less than it cost to build (in 2019).”

The former East Lakeview property owner who took the over 50 percent loss observes: “I love this neighborhood. I love my neighbors. But Boystown and East Lakeview are not only a bad financial investment. It is simply not safe anymore day or night whether you are home or not.”

The property owner added:

“City hall does not care at all about the safety of the gay community given criminals from the South and West sides rank higher on the woke, intersectional victim scale and because of this, we’ve invited them into shoot, pillage and redistribute property as they please. Some are now even using machine guns on our streets with virtually no fear of getting caught.”

He concludes: “As much as I love this place, you’d have to be a fool to remain if you can afford to leave without it bankrupting you. My advice to my friends - make the hard decision and take the financial loss now if you can afford it.”

“You can always come back for Market Days and Pride without risking your life and losing your retirement as your house or condo value crashes.”

* Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

U.S. Census Bureau, Business Patterns

US. Travel Association, National Travel and Tourism Office

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