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Chicago Should Have Rent Control, State Lawmaker Says

By Sam Cholke | February 7, 2017 1:02pm | Updated on February 7, 2017 2:31pm
 State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) is pushing Springfield to repeal a law banning rent control in the state.
State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) is pushing Springfield to repeal a law banning rent control in the state.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

KENWOOD — Groups across the city are pushing the state to ditch laws banning rent control in Illinois as rental markets in Pilsen, Logan Square and Hyde Park heat up.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) has introduced a bill in Springfield that would repeal a 1997 law passed under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar.

“The fear was the bogeyman of rent control,” Guzzardi said of the Rent Control Preemption Act at a Tuesday news conference in Kenwood.

There was no rent control in the state at the time and the measure pushed by real estate lobbyists made sure there wouldn’t be in Chicago or anywhere else in the state.

Guzzardi said the fear was based on a misconception and it’s time to add the possibility of rent control or stabilization to the tools available to lawmakers trying to deal with quickly rising rents in neighborhoods like Logan Square or Pilsen.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Logan Square has increased by 40 percent to $1,250 at the end of 2016 from $895 at the end of 2011.

Lorena Vargas of the Pilsen Alliance said the problem of rising rents is also hitting Pilsen hard and she wants more tools available to her alderman to do something about it.

She said her mother was priced out of her home in Pilsen because of rising property taxes and into a rental apartment, which she said her grandmother is now having difficulty affording as rents go up.

“Please let us have peace of mind and hope,” Vargas said.

The repeal of the ’97 law would not create rent control in Chicago or other cities, but would allow the City Council to determine if wanted to put a cap on rent increases in the city or take other action to stabilize rents. Caps could take into account a variety of factors, including the incomes of residents in a particular neighborhood or building, for example. The proposed bill does not dictate what actions towns or cities could take, if any.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who represents Logan Square, Avondale and nearby neighborhoods, said he would work on ordinances locally to slow the churn of gentrification pushing people out of neighborhoods.

"Too many families in our neighborhoods are rent distressed," Ramirez-Rosa said. "It's time for cities like Chicago to put forward policies that put families first and stabilize rent."

The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization has joined the call for rent control as Kenwood, Hyde Park and other south lakefront communities become more popular among renters.

“We’re tired of families getting pushed out of Illinois just because they can’t afford to live here,” Jawanza Malone, executive director of KOCO.

Guzzardi said he’s positioning the bill in Springfield as returning authority to local governments in an effort to appeal to Republican lawmakers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether the governor would oppose the repeal.

Only four states — New York, New Jersey, Maryland and California — and the District of Columbia have rent control.