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As Logan Square Heats Up, Some Renters Feel the Squeeze and Protest

By Victoria Johnson | January 31, 2014 10:22am
 Dozens of residents of a building recently acquired by M. Fishman & Co. protested outside its offices Thursday afternoon.
M. Fishman Protest
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LOGAN SQUARE — As Logan Square becomes increasingly desirable to renters as the neighborhood booms, some longtime renters are feeling the squeeze and protesting rent increases.

A protest played out Thursday outside the management management offices of M. Fishman & Co. Dozens of residents of a building acquired by the company protested rising rents.

The residents of 2536 N. Sawyer Ave., which M. Fishman & Co. bought in September, say they face losing their apartments unless they can come up with as much as $300 more a month for the studios and one-bedroom apartments.

"Basically they're saying, if you want to stay you have to pay $300 more," said resident Luis Ortiz. "Most people in the building are retired, they're veterans, and they can't afford it."

Representatives of M. Fishman declined comment. A DePaul University real estate expert said the situation appears to be part of a larger trend across the country as young people flock to cities and heat up the demand for rental housing.

With Logan Square's new bars, restaurants and the newly made-over Logan Theatre — which Fishman bought and renovated in 2012 — the neighborhood has become blazing hot for renters.

James Schilling, a real estate studies professor at DePaul University, said in cities across the country "we've seen a sharp decrease in home ownership in the 24 to 34 age range."

"As of a result of young professionals not owning anymore, more and more renters are entering this market, and we've seen rents rise considerably," Schilling said.

And cities is where many younger people want to live, he said.

"We've seen as a result increased demand and increased interest in neighborhoods like Logan Square and others," he said.

Ald. Rey Colon (35th), said he sympathizes with the tenants of the Sawyer Avenue building, and added that it is important to offset rising rents with affordable housing, such as buildings run by nonprofits Bickerdike and Hispanic Housing.

Still, Colon adds that he and other elected officials also often get heat from those who associate affordable housing with crime and blight.

"Trying to strike that balance is met with criticism no matter which way you go," he said.

Tenants say they are getting letters 30 days before their leases are up asking them to move out, though some have gotten offers to stay if they can afford the higher rents — as much as 60 percent more than they're paying now.

Ortiz, 34, said he's been living in the building for four years and currently pays $550 a month for his studio, while M. Fishman is asking $875 for a studio in the building.

Laurissa Dziedzic, 28, lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and two young children, and now pays $730. Dziedzic said she has not yet received her 30-day notice — her lease is up in March — and doesn't know how much more she'll be asked to pay.

Chicago does not have a rent control law, which prevents landlords from raising rents dramatically. In New York, for instance, rent increases for rent-controlled apartments are capped at a maximum of 7.5 percent every two years until a tenant moves out, at which time an owner can adjust it to market rates.

The law generally only covers those built before 1947.