Since 1997, rent control has been banned in Illinois. A bill working its way through the General Assembly would create some wiggle room, giving cities and towns the chance to hold a referendum vote on whether their municipality should allow rent control.
State lawmakers debated the bill at a hearing earlier this week, with opponents saying it won’t boost affordable housing stock, and supporters saying it should be up to voters to decide.
“The reason that we have Section 8, we have (rental assistance) programs, we have subsidized living is because the government correctly comes in and says we need to allow for affordable housing to bridge gaps,” said State Rep. Andrew Chesney, a Republican from Freeport. “What this legislation does is (allow) local units of government to enter into the private sector and dictate the rents.”
“I recognize something that I’ve heard a number of my colleagues say: the reality is that Chicago’s very different from rural Illinois, and rural Illinois is very different from Naperville, and Naperville’s certainly very different from East St. Louis,” said State Rep. Delia Ramirez, a Democrat from Chicago and co-sponsor of the legislation “This bill gives us an opportunity to leave it to the voters to decide where they stand, and then go back to the local authorities to decide if they want to entertain the conversation.”
Michael Glasser of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance says at a time when small landlords are struggling to get through the pandemic, allowing local rental control referenda will create a confusing patchwork for owners to navigate.
“I can’t think of a greater disaster, anything more confusing, or anything that would lead to greater disinvestment in the city of Chicago – or anywhere else in the state – (than) if any level of local government, by referendum, can make a decision that justifiably ought to be made by elected officials who are chosen to make those decisions,” Glasser said.
But Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez of Chicago’s 25th Ward says it should be up to communities to decide what’s best for them.
“We have seen developers and realtors influence government, so that right now we (have) our hands tied. I keep hearing from developers (about) this doomsday – doomsday already happened in our community. The destabilization developers have created in our community is atrocious,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “I think that what we need right now is democracy.”