Legislators Push to Repeal Illinois Ban on Rent Control

Legislators Push to Repeal Illinois Ban on Rent Control

Legislators Push to Repeal Illinois Ban on Rent Control

Anybody who’s lived here long enough – or not – know that this city is getting too dang expensive to live in.

And like sky-high drug prices that are guaranteed because the pharmaceutical companies fund the Congress, the rent prices here are guaranteed to increase and push out lower-income folk because developers fund our mayor and the aldermen.

Thanks to the TIF – tax increment financing districts – we taxpayers also subsidize wealthy condo developments at a time when the city says it’s broke and has to close mental health clinics and public schools.

Some state reps are trying to help out by pushing Springfield to repeal a law banning rent control in our state. State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) introduced a bill that would repeal a 1997 law passed by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar and financed by the Koch brothers-financed political group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), to make sure developers can charge whatever they want and the market will bear.

Chicago real estate is hot on the South Side in places like Pilsen and Hyde Park and on the North Side in places like Logan Square and Uptown.

Let’s take a closer look at Uptown, where the city is forcing homeless people living in tents under the Lake Shore Drive viaducts to move because of reconstruction. Uptown was once a neighborhood that welcomed people from all walks of life – American Indians, Appalachians, immigrants, mentally ill, working class people, etc. to come and live in an affordable place.

Uptown over the years was home to a fierce political battle between then Alderwoman Helen Shiller who supported affordable housing versus her opponents who represented developers and home owners.

Shiller finally bowed out and James Cappleman was elected. Since then Uptown and the rest of the North Side has lost almost 2,000 units of affordable housing.

Alderman Cappleman – who has received lots of money from developers – just recently allowed the sale of the Wilson Men’s Club Hotel SRO (Single Resident Occupancy) – 200 units of the most low-cost permanent housing available in the city – to a private developer who plans to turn it into market rate housing, despite serious offers from at least two non-profits to maintain the building as affordable housing, activist Andy Thayer told Chicago News.

The 150 people currently living at the Wilson Hotel will likely be on the streets as no other SRO’s besides the River North one are as inexpensive, Thayer wrote in an email.

“Reporters have found any number of instances of incompetence in city governance over the years, but this is not one of them,” Thayer said. “It is an intentional policy. By ‘accidentally on purpose’ allowing the destruction of affordable housing in the city, the mayor and his allied aldermen give a huge favor to one of their most powerful core constituencies and campaign contributors – real estate developers and big landlords. By steadily diminishing the amount of low cost housing units that competes with private real estate, the mayor and aldermen push up the cost of housing for all working people in the city.”

Thayer said it’s “simple market economics” where more people are chasing fewer units of low cost housing to push prices up, and big real estate developers and landlords get more profits per unit. That’s why the city allowed CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) units to deteriorate rather than repairing them, let alone expand the availability of affordable housing.

“Even the mayor’s much touted affordable housing trust fund plays into this,” Thayer wrote. “Rather than building new housing to allow more moderately income people to live in the city, it simply subsidizes current landlords (Section 8 vouchers) who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get the profits they want from their over-priced units. Despite population loss, we are currently reaping the price of the huge net destruction of CHA housing during the 1980s and 1990s, with nearly half of Chicagoans being ‘rent burdened’ – defined as spending 30 percent or more of their incomes on housing. Until we have a radical change in spending priorities, the problems we see with people forced to live in tent cities will only get worse.”

The repeal of the 1997 rent control state law – which overrides local laws – would not create rent control in Chicago or other cities, but would allow for the City Council to determine if it wanted to put a cap on rent increases in order to stabilize rents. Caps would take into account a variety of factors, including the incomes of residents in a certain neighborhood or building, Dnainfo reported.

However, Thayer questioned the recent push by a few Democrats to repeal the rent control state law.

“It’s ironic that the Democrats — who opposed the rent control ban when it was a Republican proposal, but who passed it themselves once they controlled the statehouse — now want to do away with it, when a Republican is in the governor’s mansion. As with defense of immigrants (the previous president deported a record number of them), the Democrats seem to be on the right side of policies — so long as they’re out of office,” he told Chicago News.