Crains – Opinion: Renters don’t trust what our landlords say about housing affordability and Bring Chicago Home

By Anthony J. Perkins, October 3, 2023

During the 2023 mayoral runoff, a picture went viral on social media of an apartment with a Brandon Johnson sign in the window, above a giant Paul Vallas sign planted on the lawn by the building owner. As usual, a picture was worth a thousand words: renters for Johnson vs. landlords for Vallas.

Now, as the Bring Chicago Home campaign ramps up, we’re in yet another round of the battle between the renter and landlord classes. Bring Chicago Home would reform Chicago’s real estate transfer tax by creating a tax cut for property sales below $1 million and a progressive increase — higher tax rates on more expensive properties — on sales of properties valued at over $1 million, with the new revenue paying for affordable housing and essential services to end homelessness. With the referendum headed to the City Council for a vote to put it on the ballot in March, the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance has now published a survey saying that a majority of landlords would raise rents in response to the effort.

So when the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance starts wringing its hands and saying, “What about the renters?” you’ll have to forgive my skepticism. The alliance represents 600 members who own more than 180,000 rental units, an average of 300 rental units per landlord. These are not mom-and-pop landlords who rent their garden units. These are powerful political interests who for generations have raised rents, donated to landlord-friendly politicians and ferociously lobbied against any effort to tax any portion of their profits. They are not credible messengers on what’s best for renters like me.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Bring Chicago Home will not, in fact, result in rising rents for the overwhelming majority of Chicagoans. Because of the graduated tax structure, most property sales will actually experience a decrease in their transaction taxes, including 94% of all two- to four-unit, multifamily buildings. In fact, two-thirds of the projected revenue will come from properties worth more than $10 million — not mom-and-pop multifamily homes, but large buildings with hundreds of rental units. Sound familiar?

Bring Chicago Home is a carefully considered, soundly constructed policy that is good for the overwhelming majority of renters and homeowners in our city, but that’s not what matters to organizations like the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance and landlords. What matters to them is their ability to keep making a profit by raising rents, cutting costs, and pushing out poor and working-class people when we can no longer afford to live in their investment properties.

That’s why big landlords are attacking Bring Chicago Home, and it’s why we shouldn’t trust a single thing they say about it.

Anthony J. Perkins, a housing leader with One Northside and the Bring Chicago Home campaign, is a disabled senior citizen who currently lives in a Chicago Housing Authority senior housing building in Edgewater.

Read Renters Beware: Don’t trust one thing landlords are saying about housing affordability and Bring Chicago Home.

CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

Six Chicago area high school graduates have won a CCH college scholarship to support them in their higher education journeys. They were celebrated at a luncheon with CCH staff, selection committee members, and limited guests on July 28. 

CCH’s annual award of $3,500 is renewable for up to five years as students work to complete a bachelor’s or associate degree. All first-year winners also received new laptops, made possible with a grant from long-time partner, The Osa Foundation.

Twenty undergraduate students will be supported by the CCH college scholarship program during the 2022 – 2023 school year, including six first-years, six sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. They are attending colleges and universities in California, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Continue reading CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

City Includes Units for People Living Doubled-up in Plan to Spend Chicago Relief Funds 

Years of Advocacy Leads to Recognition of Housing Needs for Highly Vulnerable Households 

On July 19, Chicago announced its plan for how it would spend federal relief funds designated for homelessness as well as city bond funding it had allocated for permanent supportive housing.  The plan included 35 units of permanent supportive housing for people living doubled-up or staying temporarily with others due to economic hardship. In addition, there are 35 units for returning residents and 11 units for survivors of gender-based violence that allow eligibility for people living doubled-up. 

In Chicago in 2019, 71% of the 58,000 people experiencing homelessness were living doubled-up.  Although this is the most common form of homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not recognize this living situation as homeless and therefore does not allow access to homeless-specific housing resources for those living doubled-up.  The result has been that many of these families cycle between staying in shelters and other people’s houses for years or end up leaving the city altogether.  

“People experiencing homelessness as doubled-up are often caught in limbo, with no good place to turn for safe, permanent housing and supports. That is why the City of Chicago’s proposal is so important. It not only recognizes the needs of this large population of people experiencing homelessness, but also shows that with flexible funding, cities and states can creatively address their needs. What Chicago is doing is a model for the rest of the country,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

Research has shown that families living doubled-up have the same vulnerabilities and the same housing needs as those in shelters or on the streets.  In fact, they are largely the same families.  In an analysis of data from 2013-2017, the Inclusive Economy Lab found that between 49-58% of households served in our shelter system were previously living doubled-up. 

“Children in families who experience homelessness while living doubled-up with friends or relatives suffer many of the same immediate and long-term health risks as children who experience literal homelessness: developmental delays, lack of school readiness, academic failures, behavioral and mental health problems, and chronic, stress related diseases during adulthood. We are very pleased that the City of Chicago has recognized the harms and is taking initial steps to build permanent housing to help some of these children and families,” said Nancy Heil, MD, FAAP, member of the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Inclusion of these units in the plan is a big change for the city.  Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has been advocating for years for the city to use more flexible funding to serve this population, but with HUD’s strong preference for serving people that meet their definition of homelessness, it has been hard to break through.   

The plan will be submitted to HUD for approval in early August and developers for the units will be selected in 2023. 

Hotel Toledo: Eviction Avoided

In April of 2022, CCH learned that the owner of Hotel Toledo, a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel located at 6219 S. Ashland Avenue, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood had set in motion a process to evict every tenant living in the hotel, giving the tenants until April 30th to vacate the building with all their possessions. The only notice that tenants received was the notice posted at the hotel.  

Notice posted to residents informing them that the Hotel Toledo was no longer open for residence.

Many of the tenants facing eviction had been faithfully paying their rent prior to this eviction process being implemented by the Owner. The hotel was a long-term residence for most of the tenants – many of them had lived at Hotel Toledo for years. In addition, many of the tenants experienced homelessness prior to living at the Hotel Toledo. 

The Law Project’s Case and Street Outreach Worker, Ali Simmons, it’s Director, Patricia Nix-Hodes, and Senior Attorney Arturo Hernandez, along with Nick Jefferson of CCH’s Organizing Department, immediately got involved. A meeting was held with approximately 13 of the tenants to determine exactly what was going on, and what the tenants wanted to do in response to the Owner’s actions to evict them.  

During this meeting, the tenants overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted to stay at the hotel (which is also an SRO). After the meeting, CCH delivered a letter to the owner advising that the planned eviction was unlawful and violated the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and the Chicago Single Room Occupancy Preservation Ordinance. 

CCH reached out to Lawyers Committee for Better Housing who agreed to represent one of the tenants in a court proceeding to have a temporary restraining order issued against the owner to stop the eviction.

Notice of Eviction delivered to each tenant in the building.

CCH also reached out to City officials who also advised the owner that the eviction was unlawful and pursued legal action against the owner. These combined efforts were successful in stopping the owner’s attempt to illegally evict the tenants. The hotel was placed under a receivership which allows the hotel to remain open and the individuals living there. The illegal eviction notices were taken down, replaced with new notices advising tenants that they could stay.

 CCH continues to work with and advocate for the tenants to ensure that they understand their rights going forward. In the continued conversation CCH learned that the tenants believed that Hotel Toledo, while not an ideal place to live, was stable enough until they could secure permanent housing. This is an example of how important affordable housing is, and Bring Chicago Home is the beginning of the answer! With more done to address homelessness, and the creation of more affordable housing, individuals will have viable options for housing that do not exist for them right now.