Rent control advocates gear up for new push
September 6, 2019

Photo courtesy Jane Addams Senior Caucus
Rent control proponents are gearing up for a new push after progress on two bills they wanted to see passed stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.

Earlier this year, two bills in the Illinois General Assembly repealing the State law barring rent control in Chicago and creating rent control boards in six regions across the State looked likely to pass, but no longer, as interests opposing the bills appear to have persuaded State legislators to back off.

Groups from all over the city whose members favor the bills therefore are gearing up for another shot, according to Melissa Rubio, chief of staff to Logan Square State Representative Will Guzzardi (39th).

Guzzardi and South Side State Representative Mary Flowers (31st) sponsored one of the bills, which would “turn powers back to municipalities, allowing them to step in and do what they believe is right,” Guzzardi said

“We’re working with the Coalition to Lift the Ban on rent controls, and right now we’re doing organizing and making sure we’re all on the same page,” Rubio said.

“In terms of movement, we won’t know much until we finish a whole bunch of meetings and start educating the public” before the Illinois General Assembly reconvenes in October, she added.

Also on board with the Lift the Ban campaign are many community groups and activists such as Byron Sigcho-Lopez, formerly with the Pilsen Alliance and now 25th Ward Alderman, and Miguel Jiminez of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.

Local State Senator Mattie Hunter (3rd) had introduced the bill that called for rent control boards in six regions across the State, regulating rents for specific income levels and keeping any annual rent increases in line with inflation.

Hunter’s bill also spelled out how much notice landlords would have to give before rent increases could take effect.

Flowers’s and Guzzardi’s bill also would allow municipalities across the State to enact their own rent controls. Lawmakers stopped that bill when an Illinois House subcommittee voted not to forward it to the full House.

Proponents felt hopeful when gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker and a number of other Democrats swept to power, but even that has not provided enough support to lift the ban on rent controls. Real estate and landlord groups triumphed after pulling out all the stops in a campaign fueled by generous donations to candidates and a public relations drive led by lobbyist Brian Bernardoni, then senior director of government affairs and public policy for the Chicago Association of Realtors, who called the concept of rent controls “a sweeping attack on residential real estate and private property rights.”

During his gubernatorial campaign, Pritzker supported repealing the statewide ban on rent control.

Sigcho-Lopez said he made a commitment at the start of his successful aldermanic campaign not to accept any donations from real estate interests, spokeswoman Rebecca Evans said. Instead, she added, “he’s focused on a sustainable, balanced approach that welcomes new development without displacing families that have called the 25th Ward home for generations.”

State legislators can expect continued pressure from activists who favor lifting the ban on rent control. The issue is becoming a national one, as lawmakers have introduced bills allowing rent control in the legislatures of some other states.

The New York State Legislature has passed bills that opened the possibility for local governments in that state to enact rent control, and Oregon passed a statewide rent control bill.

With rent control, “tenants can stay in their neighborhood with affordable housing options, contributing to local economies, schools, and community preservation, and Chicago’s overall economic well being,” the Lift the Ban Coalition said in a statement.

For the Chicago Association of Realtors, log on to https://chicagorealtor.com. To contact Guzzardi, log on to www.repguzzardi.com. To contact Hunter, log on to www.senatorhunter.com. For the Lift the Ban Coalition, log on to ltbcoalition.org. To contact the MTO, log on to www.tentans-rights.org. For Sigcho-Lopez, log on to www.25thward.org.

—Patrick Butler