Chicago Activists Try to End State Ban on Rent Control

With housing prices in Chicago escalating, local activists are taking the first steps to end the state’s ban on local rent-control laws. The Lift the Ban Coalition, an alliance of about 20 community organizations, is lobbying the state legislature to repeal the law, and several groups in the coalition are trying to get a non-binding referendum urging repeal on the city ballot for the spring 2018 elections.

The Rent Control Pre-Emption Act, written by the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council, was enacted in 1997. The lack of rent controls means that tenants can be evicted at any time, and more than half of renters in Chicago spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

In Pilsen, a heavily Latino neighborhood southwest of the Loop that’s now gentrifying, “ten thousand families were displaced in the last few years,” Miguel Jimenez, an organizer with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, told Paciic Standard magazine, The group is circulating petitions for the referendum.

In the Northwest Side neighborhood of Albany Park, Autonomous Tenants Union organizer Jacob Marshall says that the Silver Property Group developer’s managing broker, Ron Abrams, is known as “the eviction king of Albany Park.” He said the developer gives everyone in a building they buy a 30-day eviction notice, then renovates the apartments and rents them out for up to twice as much. He “seems to target that are inhabited by immigrants,” Marshall added.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) introduced a measure that would repeal the Rent Control Pre-Emption Act in February and restore local control. “I think it’s the proper position of government to provide protections against the excesses of free-market capitalism,” he told Crain’s Chicago Business. “That’s why we have a minimum wage.”

The idea has drawn substantial opposition from the real-estate industry, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican billionaire, would be almost certain to veto allowing rent control.