The Real Deal Chicago

Rent control measures on the ballot in 3 wards Tuesday

RE industry groups already oppose separate legislation pending in Springfield to lift statewide ban on rent control
By John O’Brien | November 02, 2018 01:30PM

(Credit: iStock)

Voters in three wards on Tuesday will be asked whether the existing statewide ban on rent control should be lifted.

The referendums that will appear on the ballots in three wards on the North Side — the 35th, 46th and 49th — are advisory, meaning they carry no weight to force legislative action.

In March, voters in 77 precincts overwhelmingly approved similar advisory referendums, calling on the state to lift the 20-year-old rent control ban. But those totals, along with the 104 precincts in the three wards where the questions will appear Tuesday, represent a small fraction of the more than 2,000 precincts in the city.

Several pieces of legislation are already pending in Springfield to either lift the ban but include an alternative, or implement rent control outright.

The push in some quarters for rent control comes as average rents on two-bedroom apartments outpace household incomes in more than half of Chicago’s ZIP codes, leaving families struggling to pay rent in neighborhoods all over the map, according to a recent report.

While the ratio of rents to incomes was highest in areas on the West and South sides, the wards where the rent control referendums will appear Tuesday include Logan Square — the center of a growing debate on rents and gentrification; and Uptown, which is seeing a surge in luxury apartment development.

A RentCafe report from October put the average rent in Chicago at $1,808 a month, down 1 percent year over year.

State Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Democrat from the South Side, is one of several lawmakers who backs bills aiming to lift the ban on rent control and allow municipalities to more tightly control how much landlords can increase rents annually. Hunter’s version would establish elected rent control boards in every county statewide that would adjust rents every year.

The bill would limit increases to 1 percent above the Consumer Price Index for renters making up to 60 percent of the county median income. It would be capped at an annual increase of 5 percent. For renters making up to 120 percent of the median county income, it would limit increases to 2 percent above the Consumer Price Index, for a maximum increase of 6 percent.

Opponents of the measure, including real estate and and landlord trade groups, which say it would prevent landlords from charging market-rate rents. That would give them less to spend on upkeep of the buildings, which would cause the properties to deteriorate.

The legislation is still pending, and the earliest it could come up for a vote is later this month during the General Assembly’s veto session.