Future of affordable housing unclear after SRO tenant deals

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In a bid to preserve his home in Logan Square’s bug-infested Milshire Hotel, Fred Bartels testified before the City Council just last month in favor of a city moratorium on converting or demolishing single-room occupancy and residential hotels.

On Friday, Bartels was making plans for what he could do with the $4,000 he will receive in exchange for moving out of the Milshire by Sept. 2 as part of a settlement between tenants and the building owner.

“We’re talking about getting out of Dodge,” said Bartels, explaining that he and one of his neighbors have discussed “buying a vehicle and going cross country.”

The settlement that will pay Bartels his small grubstake is one of two reached separately in recent weeks between SRO residents and owners to settle lawsuits brought by tenants unions responding to redevelopment efforts.

In both cases, the settlements were embraced as good deals by tenants happy to accept the cash and move on with their lives instead of clinging to substandard dwellings where they weren’t wanted.

But the outcome is more ambiguous for the larger cause of preserving Chicago’s dwindling supply of affordable housing, which both buildings represented.

As I’ve been writing for the last couple years now, these SRO buildings are fast disappearing across the city, leaving few options for the people who used to live there.

In the case of the Rosemoor Hotel, 1622 .W. Jackson, owner Joe Perillo said he will now move ahead rapidly with his plans to turn the former “flophouse” into a more upscale extended-stay Hotel Chicago catering to medical school students and others needing easy access to the city’s near West Side hospitals.

Perillo said his building will offer “affordable” rents, just not by the standards of most of the low-income residents who used to live there.

Taking care of homeless people is up to the government, not private developers like him, the luxury car dealer told me, and I can’t argue the point, but the end result is still more homeless people.


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