Chicago Neighborhoods Urge Ending Rent-Control Ban

Voters in three of Chicago’s 50 wards said “yes” to a ballot question asking if the state should repeal its prohibition on local rent-control laws Nov. 6.

In the 49th Ward, 66 percent of voters said the state should repeal the ban, while in the 35th and 46th wards, more than 70 percent voted “yes” to the question “Should the State of Illinois be able to regulate rents to address rising rents, unjust evictions, and gentrification in our communities?”

All three areas, two on the North Side and one on the Northwest Side, are under pressure from rising rents. “Logan Square is ground zero for gentrification and displacement in Chicago, and residents there and in the surrounding neighborhoods gave a resounding yes for rent control,” Lillian Osborne, field director for 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Rosa, told the local-news Web site Block Club Chicago. 

More than half the city’s roughly 1,050,000 renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, according to the Lift the Ban coalition.

The plebiscites, like those held in 77 precincts around the city in March, were not binding. But two bills to repeal the state’s 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act, drafted by the Koch brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, have been introduced in the state legislature. State Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Democrat from the Logan Square area, has sponsored a seven-word measure: “The Rent Control Preemption Act is repealed.” State Sen. Mattie Hunter, from the predominantly black South Side, introduced a bill that would establish statewide rent controls administered by county boards, as well as giving smaller landlords tax breaks for repairs.

State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has “an open mind” on Hunter’s bill, a spokesperson told the Chicago Reader weekly in October. Democratic governor-elect J.B. Pritzker has endorsed repealing the rent-control ban, while outgoing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner opposed it.