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Milshire Hotel Development Blocked Under New SRO Law

By Adeshina Emmanuel | July 31, 2014 10:51am | Updated on August 1, 2014 9:53am
 The longtime SRO hotel issued notices to its many homeless and mentally ill tenants.
The longtime SRO hotel issued notices to its many homeless and mentally ill tenants.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

LOGAN SQUARE — A six-month moratorium on demolishing or converting single-room occupancy buildings and residential hotels, approved by the City Council on Wednesday with a 47-0 vote, appears to give the residents of the Milshire Hotel some time.

The moratorium was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aims to buy time so a new ordinance can be crafted to preserve the city's existing SROs and residential hotels such as the Milshire at 2525 N. Milwaukee Ave.

In April, residents were told they would have to leave within 30 days. On May 31, eviction notices were issued, signed by owner Arthur Fischoff, but largely ignored. On June 6, Arlo Hotel Corp., Fischoff's company, served the tenants with a seven-day notice, according to a complaint filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

The moratorium prohibits the city from issuing future permits for conversions and demolition.

Department of Buildings spokeswoman Mimi Simon said there were no pending permit applications for work on the Milshire, meaning it's protected under the moratorium.

Mark Swartz, legal director of the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, said "it would appear that [the moratorium] would prohibit any sort of thoughtless development" when it comes to the Milshire.

"I'm hoping the SRO moratorium is going to put people in the mindset to start thinking about a way to use the Milshire that isn't going to completely disturb what its function has been in the neighborhood," said Swartz.

"When you look at the number of affordable housing units that have been lost in the city, it's really jarring, so that's why something like [the moratorium] had to happen," he said.

Fischoff has declined to publicly comment on the Milshire since his letter was distributed to Milshire tenants in April. Logan Square landlord M. Fishman & Co. is presumed to be the buyer.

SRO buildings, often offering weekly leases, and monthly rents from as low as $280 to upward of $600, consist of very small bedrooms with residents sharing kitchens and bathrooms.

Advocates for poor people and affordable housing commonly refer to SROs as "housing of last resort" for people fighting homelessness, and have been pushing for the preservation ordinance in the aftermath of the loss of thousands of SRO units in the city in recent years.

The ordinance predicts that allowing further conversions of SROs would result in increased numbers of homeless people which "would add to the already practically overwhelming burden on public and nonprofit agencies."

Critics of SROs and residential hotels for the poor argue that the buildings are commonly in horrible shape and unsafe for tenants, and that a developer willing to foot the bill to fix the buildings is providing a benefit rather than a detriment to communities.

Some neighbors around the buildings in communities such as Uptown and Lakeview also blame SROs for problems with drug activity, public drinking, panhandling and vagrancy. In Uptown, critics have noted what they consider an unfair concentration of cheap housing that should be more evenly distributed across the city.

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