Crain’s Chicago Business, Greg Hinz: Emanuel moves to stop loss of SRO units

By Greg Hinz, columnist

In a gesture toward the city’s poorer residents, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving to impose a six-month moratorium on eliminating single room occupancy housing and residential hotels.

The proposal comes as Mr. Emanuel prepares to seek re-election and could help him garner votes in parts of Chicago where he has been accused of only helping the rich. But it could draw fire from landowners in changing neighborhoods and from those who consider many SROs to be little better than flophouses.

In a statement, Mr. Emanuel said the ban would prohibit the issuance of any city building permits that would result in the loss of SRO or residential-hotel units, or that would allow such space to be converted to commercial, industrial or higher-rent residential use.

“There is a critical balance between development that will help spur Chicago’s economy into the future and providing safe and affordable housing for its residents,” Mr. Emanuel said. “We will continue to work with community leaders and advocates to come to an agreement that takes both of these important aspects of our city’s growth into consideration.”

The proposed ordinance is to be introduced at tomorrow’s City Council meeting and will be sponsored by Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, who represents portions of the Near North and West sides, and Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, on the North Side.

According to Mr. Emanuel’s office, 30 city SROs have closed since 2008, nearly a third of the citywide total, leaving just 5,000 to 6,000 such units.