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City Council Approves Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance, Parking Meter Changes

Alderman Walter Burnett and Keep Chicago Renting Leaders at City Hall.

Progress Illinois

Renters in foreclosed buildings will see some added protections thanks to the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance that passed the full city council Wednesday by a 45-4 vote. 

“God has brought us a long way,” Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said to dozens of cheerful housing advocates after the vote. “It used to take us two years to get something like this passed, but look at us now.” 

Under the ordinance, which Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) introduced last July, tenants can stay in their homes during the foreclosure process until the property is sold to a third party. The law requires that tenants be notified when their building is foreclosed upon and when it is turned over to a new owner during the process.

The ordinance has two main goals: to prevent new vacant properties from popping up in the city and help law abiding residents stay in their homes, activists said this morning before the council meeting.

“Renters are the hidden victims in this foreclosure crisis,” said Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which is a member of the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition. “We know that vacant, foreclosed multi-unit properties facilitate crime and gang violence in our communities, especially in our communities of color.”

Under the ordinance, lenders who acquire foreclosed buildings would have to pay tenants $10,600 per unit who are forced to leave their home before the property is sold.

An earlier version of the ordinance, however, called for a $12,000 payment.

Another option is for mortgage holders to keep the renter's current lease until the building is sold. The maximum rent increase tenants could see is 2 percent annually under the new law.

LSNA Vice President Daniel LaSpata at City Hall press conference before vote.

Daniel LaSpata with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association said the need for the Keep Chicago Renting measure is urgent.

In 2012, about 12,000 apartment units entered foreclosure in Chicago, he noted.

“That amounts to 33 apartment units every day,” LaSpata stressed.

Activists also say keeping renters in foreclosed buildings will help deter crime.

A report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing from late March found that between 2005 and 2012, the number of crimes that happened in vacant homes or lots in the city tripled.

Despite almost a year of negotiations between the Emanuel administration and Alds. Mell and Ray Suarez (31st), Burnett commended the mayor for his help with the ordinance. He said Emanuel’s administration is “ten times” easier to work with than the previous administration when it comes to housing issues and helping people stay in their homes.

“This is what the people want,” he stressed. “This is what the people need. Let’s keep Chicago renting.”

Big banks had been lobbying aldermen to vote against the proposal since its introduction, Limas said.

“The big banks squawk about everything, however they never offer any real solutions,” she added. “They makes suggestions that maintain the status quo.”

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said banks have been against the ordinance, because they don’t want to pay $10,600 to the renters when they are evicted.

“It’s all about the money,” he said.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) explained the banks are powerful enough to break the own rules they write.

“And when they decide that they’re too big to fail, we bail them out,” Pawar said before the meeting. “I think this ordinance has leveled the playing field and gives the little guy a chance to write the rules too.”

The ordinance takes effect 90 days after its passage and publication.

Keywords: Foreclosure, Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, lsna, Maldonado, renters, renting, Renting Ordinance

Posted in LSNA in the Media