As May approaches, Chicago renters are desperate for relief

To date, state leaders and a dysfunctional Congress have provided little help

TRD CHICAGO /
Apr.April 23, 2020 12:00 PM
Governor of Illinois J. B. Pritzker (Credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Governor of Illinois J. B. Pritzker (Credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Despite 2,000 one-time housing grants, the calls for rent relief keep coming. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker hasn’t heeded them.

In fact, Pritzker says he can’t. He claims that only the state legislature, which is not currently meeting, can repeal the ban on rent control.

Organizers on the left say Pritzker wields incredible power but is passing the buck.

If you ask housing organizers, Pritzker could use his ongoing disaster proclamation to repeal the state’s preemptive ban on rent regulation. They’re also pushing the governor to put a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the stay-at-home order, extending three months after it expires.

“He is the decision-maker, the person that really holds all the cards in this situation,” Jawanza Malone, founding member of Lift the Ban Coalition, told the Chicago Tribune. “There is no one else for us to appeal to.”

Roughly 26 million people across the U.S. have filed for unemployment benefits. About 1 in 6 American workers have lost their jobs since mid-March.

Though calls for rent control haven’t picked up any momentum at the state level, local and federal politicians have introduced legislation on rent relief. Chicago Alderman Matt Martin (47th Ward) introduced a bill that would give renters who lost income due to the virus and can’t pay rent for up to 12 months to make it up in staggered payments, according to the Tribune.

And U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia co-sponsored Rep. Ilhan Omar’s bill, which would permit residents to cancel rent or mortgage payments without going into debt or being dinged on their credit rating. It would also allow landlords and banks to cover any income lost.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush similarly introduced a bill that would defer mortgage payments during the pandemic until the end of the loan.

Ultimately, though many have pitched rent relief bills nationally, Congress hasn’t yet shown it to be a priority. [Tribune]James Kleimann


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