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Rent control in Illinois? It’s getting more consideration

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Lawmakers propose lifting the ban and laying groundwork for rent control

Chicago apartments.
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The conversation about lifting the rent control ban in Illinois and implementing laws that protect residents and landlords is starting to gain traction. Earlier in February, state lawmakers introduced a bill that would repeal the ban, create rent control boards across the state, and provide benefits to both landlords and renters.

The newest legislation, HB 2192, proposes six regional rent control boards that would be elected, according to the bill and Chicago Sun-Times. The bill isn’t a “silver bullet” to solve all of Chicago’s housing issues, the newspaper said, but it’s a start.

The regional boards would determine regulations about rent stabilization rates and set small registration fees which would fund repairs and improvements. The bill includes rent-controlled and improvement tax credits and would hold landlords accountable for pricing. It would also repeal the Rent Control Preemption Act, which banned rent control in 1997.

Conservatives and the real estate industry passed the Rent Control Preemption Act to prevent any municipality across the state from creating laws around rent control. The Chicago Reader’s Maya Dukmasova wrote extensively about the history of how this law was enacted and why now there might be an opportunity for change.

“As the affordable housing crisis deepens in Chicago, any movement to protect the city’s growing and increasingly cost-burdened renter population from unreasonable and/or unexpected rent spikes will have to contend with the roadblock of the Rent Control Preemption Act, as it has the power to put even the city’s modest rental affordability protections in jeopardy.” Dukmasova writes. “And strikingly, its history is a study of how corporations and special-interest groups combined forces to quietly win an ideological and policy battle two decades before the public was ready to have it.”

In 2017, lawmakers introduced legislation that simply called for the repeal of the ban which started to build awareness. State representative Will Guzzardi is a supporter of rent control and newly elected Governor Pritzker said he’s in favor of it too.

The Illinois Realtors have launched a campaign against any kind of rent regulation in the state. Those against rent control argue limiting landlords’ ability to raise rent will diminish the amount and quality of affordable housing.

Lift The Ban Coalition, a group of community organizations, say that rent control will help the quarter of residents who are spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Rents are rising as wages stay about the same, and that’s a problem.

So do Chicagoans want rent control?

On the November 2018 ballot, nonbinding referendum questions asked residents in Logan Square, Uptown, and Rogers Park if they would support rent control regulation. In each ward, voters approved: 71 percent in the 35th ward, 70 percent in the 46th, and 66 percent in the 49th, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. These follow similar results from referendum questions during the primary in March 2018.

Rent control is common in many cities, such as LA and New York, but the legislation is very city specific so it’s hard to compare successes. The way city governments are set up and property taxes are structured affect rent control regulation.

Some Chicago residents overwhelmingly support having rent control, and the governor supports it too, so the hot button issue will undoubtedly get more attention.