Owners of Chicago’s endangered single-room occupancy buildings and residential hotels went on the offensive Monday, arguing a city preservation effort is more likely to put them out of business.
In a pre-emptive strike, Eric Rubenstein, co-president of the Single Room Operators Association, said an Emanuel Administration-backed ordinance to be introduced at the City Council on Wednesday “would force the SROs to start shutting their doors.”
“It’s not going to do anybody any good,” said Rubenstein, whose group has argued the city should offer financial incentives to SRO owners to stay in operation instead of punishing them if they try to redevelop or demolish their properties.
Are they crying wolf?
Good question, and I’m not going to pretend to know the answer.
What’s really eating at the SRO owners, though, is that they believe the city ordinance reduces the value of their properties by limiting their resale market.
The ordinance makes SROs a less attractive acquisition target for developers by imposing punitive city fees if they reduce the number of affordable housing units in a building. The owners say this is an unconstitutional “taking” of their property.
As you know, I’ve been trying to help call attention to the problem of the vanishing SROs for more than a year now.
Some 2,200 SRO units have been eliminated in the city in just the last three years, mostly on the North Side, and there’s only about 6,000 remaining in 75 buildings. The tiny rooms aren’t pretty and some of the buildings are in bad shape, but they’re cheap and they allow a lot of low-income people to keep a roof over their heads.
For that reason, I want to be supportive of the community groups that have been pushing for an ordinance to stem the tide. That doesn’t mean I can ignore the opponents.