In mid May, the word spread out like a wildfire that Alderman Joe Moreno was planning to introduce an eviction for “good cause” ordinance at the May 23rd City Council meeting. The proposed ordinance would shield tenants at risk of eviction, create additional barriers for property owners beginning eviction proceedings, and allow tenants an easy out after an eviction—leaving owners to pay the hefty legal costs and fees. The new ordinance would create a backdoor rent control that would damage Chicago’s current unit-starved housing market and ultimately hurt rather than help renters in need of affordable housing.

Emails started flying around about the proposed ordinance on Thursday (5/17) and concerned rental property owners and others planned a meeting at Alderman Moreno’s office on 5/21 to give him their feedback on the matter. From what we gather, well before the meeting the phone started ringing in the 1st ward office with property owners calling to inquire about the proposed eviction ordinance and to voice their objections and plans to attend the meeting.

On Monday (5/21) two things were clear:

  1. The rain was not going to stop
  2. Email and social media postings about the proposed ordinance generated considerable response by property owners. So much so that the Alderman’s office was discouraging people from showing up to the Monday afternoon gathering by calling it a private meeting.

As the meeting time approached, property owners were not discouraged by the rain or the Alderman’s office staff’s attempts to call the meeting private and showed up in large numbers. The volume of property owners seemed to overwhelm the size of the office and the staff which got a little edgy. On the other hand, Alderman Moreno was very welcoming and did hold the meeting as planned despite the large turn out.

The principal outcomes of the meeting were:

  1. Alderman Moreno decided to table his “just cause” eviction proposal and work on developing a more balanced ordinance in collaboration with housing stakeholders
  2. The Alderman suggested that the proposal was written to start a conversation about rising rents and affordability in Chicago
  3. We learned that the proposed ordinance was written by a third party (Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing) and that the Alderman has issues with the legality of some parts.
  4. The Alderman understands that in the Chicago neighborhoods with affordable housing, rent increases help property owners keep up with the rising cost of utilities, labor, materials, and back office costs that keep many needed units up to date and in the market.

Property owners had a chance to bring up the following points:

  1. The current eviction process is already very burdensome for owners(4-9 months), resulting in the loss of hundreds of units every year and exacerbating the current shortage of affordable housing units. (The DePaul Institute for Housing Studies recently released a report that found that Chicago is losing 5700 rental units every year due to dilapidation and foreclosure).
  2. The previous committees that have developed housing ordinances such as the ARO have been very imbalanced, which has produced imbalanced legislation. Most committees tend to have multiple representatives from tenants groups and maybe one developer/property owner.
  3. The city needs to pay attention to supply and demand and encourage the current construction cycle of new rental units which will help add units to the inventory.
  4. Wages have not kept up with the cost of living, creating additional stress on renters. Economic development and and workforce training initiatives would do more to help cost-burdened renting households than the proposed eviction ordinance would.
  5. City Council needs to review and adjust building codes and zoning ordinances to allow more cost-effective ways to build affordable units by the private sector.

Property owners should continue to be active and engaged in the public conversation about housing and how to create adequate affordable housing in Chicago in a sustainable, fair way that is in alignment with our private-market driven system. Previous attempts to provide public housing locally and nationally failed miserably. This is not a discussion about greed versus peoples rights. Instead, this should be an open discussion about how to allow the private market to provide much needed additional rental units and alleviate the pressure caused by current demand for housing.

Thank you property owners, developers, property managers, attorneys and brokers for turning out in great numbers to help protect affordable housing.

Attached is a link to the proposal and the document that explains the thought process behind the proposed ordinance. In Alderman Moreno’s defense, the ordinance was written by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing but nevertheless the Alderman was willing to present the ordinance at City Council.

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