Chicago Voters Demand Rent Control

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Rent Control Organizers Submit Petitions to Put Referendum on Ballot

Organizers in 10 wards across Chicago went door-to-door to collect 3800 signatures to put a referendum question on the March Primary state ballot asking registered voters, “Should the State of Illinois lift the ban on rent control to address rising rents, unjust evictions, and gentrification in our community?” Nearly 110 precincts will have this question on the ballot.

This is the latest effort to repeal the Rent Control Preemption Act, which was crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and passed by the State Legislature in 1997. ALEC has gained infamy as the body behind controversial “model legislation” that is developed in secret and replicated in state legislatures across the country. The “Stand Your Ground” law that served as George Zimmerman’s defense after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida was another ALEC Bill.

Organizers are hopeful that overwhelming support for this referendum question will convince legislators to return the power to enact policies to address the housing needs specific to their respective communities back to local municipalities. Springfield should not have the authority to strip away local control, especially if it was designed by entities outside of the State. In counties throughout Illinois, like Cook, McDonough, Jackson and DeKalb, large percentages of renters are paying half of their household incomes on rent.

Skyrocketing rents are contributing to the displacement and overall loss of low-income and working families from Chicago. Rents in Chicago, on average, increased 173% between 2010 and 2014. Moreover, large-scale developments across Chicago stand to exacerbate the displacement already taking place in communities. As Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Rauner attempt to lure the 2nd Amazon headquarters, and other high-profile developments take center stage, the risk of displacement becomes heightened. For example, the Southside community of Woodlawn blocks away from where the Obama Presidential Center will be built has experienced a 23% increase in property value since the start of 2017, compared to 4.6% for the City as a whole.

Spikes in property value typically translate to increases in property taxes, which result in increased rents, evictions, and displacement.  Between 2000 and 2015, 215,000 Black people have been pushed out of the greater Chicago area. Additionally, 10,000 Latinos have been displaced from Pilsen alone in the last 10 years – largely through rampant evictions. As a racial equity issue, the continued loss of people of color from Chicago and Illinois has to be addressed.

The “Lift the Ban” coalition is led by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Lugenia Burns Hope Center, Northside Action for Justice, and Pilsen Alliance. Current membership includes: Action Now Institute, American Indian Center, Autonomous Tenants Union, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, The Community Law Project, Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Northwest Side Housing Center, ONE Northside, People for Community Recovery, SEIU HCII, Somos Logan Square, 33rd Ward IPO, 25th Ward IPO, United Working Families, Westside Health Authority.

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