The “Lift the Ban” Coalition is bringing its push for rent control measures in Chicago to voters in 10 wards during the March primary.
The coalition, comprised of roughly 16 community organizations, went door-to-door in 10 wards, garnering roughly 3,800 signatures to get the issue on the ballot as a referendum item. Though there is still time for challenges to the petition, the advisory question is all but certain to land before voters, organizers say, and already appears on the city’s Board of Elections website.
Chris Poulos, of 33rd Ward Working Families, says the ballot question in those 10 wards would allow state and local representatives to hear directly from their constituents who are “undeniably” facing a cost burden when it comes to their rents.
“The ballot question is symbolic but important because we can take that to elected officials and say, ‘Look how many of your constituents support this,’ so we can then pursue legislation,” Poulos said. “It wouldn’t be an end-all, be-all and wouldn’t solve the affordable housing crisis we’re seeing, but it would effectively stop developers and landlords from doubling rents.”
An average rent for an apartment in Chicago is $1,661, according to RentCafe, a website that follows rental market trends.
Since 1997, there’s been a statewide ban on rent control in Illinois thanks to the Rent Control Preemption Act. The law means no city or state government can regulate or control rent prices.
Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy for the Chicago Realtors Association, said the association would fight the measure if it reaches the general assembly.
“Rent control would be apocalyptic for homeowners and for landlords,” Bernardoni said. “It’s failed everywhere it’s gone into effect because it takes no perspective of the property tax issue or landlord needs.”
The movement for rent control seeks to overturn that law, but also go a step further. After voters cast their ballots, organizers say new legislation, at the state and city levels, are needed to set limits on how much rent can be increased over time. That means a city ordinance, too.
The movement has grown in recent months, with gubernatorial candidates Chris Kennedy, Daniel Biss and J.B. Pritzker saying they support rent stabilization.
Jonathan Projansky sees the ballot question as a good first step to gauging support for a repeal of the law. Projansky had to move back in with his family when rising rents for his Bronzeville apartment forced him out in the early 2000s.
“This allows for people in various municipalities to decide for themselves whether or not there should be rent control,” Projansky said. “Many people aren’t able to afford average rents in the city and we have to ask ourselves how can anyone make a better life for themselves if they can’t afford the basics, like housing.”
Poulos would agree.
“People can’t afford to stay in the city and that’s not a sustainable or humane housing model,” Poulos said. “This would be one piece of a larger housing legislation that would put people’s needs above the gains of landlords and developers.”
Wards that will possibly see the advisory question:
• Ward 1 — Ald. Joe Moreno
• Ward 3 — Ald. Pat Dowell
• Ward 4 — Ald. Sophia King
• Ward 5 — Ald. Leslie Hairston
• Ward 7 — Ald. Gregory Mitchell
• Ward 12 — Ald. George A. Cardenas
• Ward 22 — Ald. Ricardo Munoz
• Ward 25 — Ald. Daniel Solis
• Ward 33 — Ald. Deborah Mell
• Ward 36 — Ald. Gilbert Villegas