The Real Deal Chicago

Chicago voters support lifting statewide ban on rent control

Voters in the 35th, 46th and 49th wards weighed in on lifting the statewide ban on rent control
By John O’Brien | November 06, 2018 09:40PM

Voters came out overwhelming in favor of lifting rent control. (Credit: iStock)

Voters in three Chicago wards Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of lifting the statewide ban on rent control, results of the nonbinding referendums show.

The advisory question appeared on the ballots in the 35th, 46th and 49th wards, in a total of 104 precincts.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting in the 35th Ward, 71 percent of voters approved of the rent control measure, compared to 22 percent against, according to the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners. In the 46th Ward, the measure was leading 70 percent to 30 percent, with 88 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 49th Ward, the measure was leading 66 percent to 34 percent, with 82 percent of precincts reporting.

Similar referendums on lifting the 20-year-old statewide ban were approved in 77 precincts around the city, during the March primary election.

Even with the results from 104 precincts where the questions appeared Tuesday, only a small fraction of the voters in the roughly 2,000 total precincts around the city have weighed in on the issue.

Several pieces of legislation are already pending in Springfield to either simply lift the ban 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.

The 35th Ward includes Logan Square, where rising rents have led to protests against gentrification, while the 46th Ward includes Uptown, a once gritty area that’s seeing a surge in luxury apartment development.

The 49th Ward includes Rogers Park, which ranked among the least affordable neighborhoods in a study earlier this year.

While the question in the 49th Ward simply asked if the state should life the ban on rent control, ballots in the 35th and 46th wards — which include gentrifying neighborhoods of Logan Square and Uptown — got a question that read: “Should the State of Illinois be able to regulate rents to address rising rents, unjust evictions, and gentrification in our communities?”

The average rent in Chicago in October was $1,808 a month, down 1 percent year over year, according to a RentCafe report.

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.