Proposing rent control for Chicago and Illinois

Political efforts will put the idea of rent control in front of some Chicago voters in the coming months:

Real and tangible, indeed, for the Lift the Ban coalition, a bloc of community groups that has been leading a two-year campaign against Illinois’ ban on rent control. The group is pushing for a repeal of the state’s 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act, a law that prohibits municipalities from enacting any form of regulation on residential or commercial rent prices.

“Because of the preemption act, it’s essentially illegal for any municipality to explore the idea of regulation,” said Jawanza Malone, Lift the Ban leader and executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “It just doesn’t make sense. The food we eat is regulated; there are environmental protections. Why is it that rent isn’t regulated? We’re just advocating for economic well-being for all of our communities.”…

The coalition’s efforts have already resulted in a question about rent regulation slated for the March primary ballot in nine wards and about 100 precincts around Chicago, Malone said. Couple that with state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, introducing a bill to the state House last year repealing the rent control ban and Democratic gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker and Daniel Biss expressing support of a repeal and you have a number of people optimistic about the repeal coming to fruition…

But rent regulation is not a tool that economists and realty professionals want to pull out of the tool kit. In fact, Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy for the Chicago Association of Realtors, likens it to “throwing a hand grenade on your lawn to get rid of dandelions.”

The issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed in some way in the Chicago region. If there are plenty of people opposed to rent control – and I assume at least a few business leaders will fight against the idea – what alternatives will they propose? At the least, perhaps a public discussion of rent control will push other parties to put some other ideas on the table.

I know the various problems in Illinois are vast but it would be great to hear a business leader or a government official step up soon and say that they had plans to build thousands of affordable housing units. I do not know how this could be done but could this not lead to a significant improvement for residents as well as positive public perception to whoever makes this happen?

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