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  • Ups and Downs - Fall 2023

     

     

    Ever since I first took on Newsletter-writing duties for Rogers Park Builders Club, I’ve kept a spreadsheet with information from each edition, tracking both articles and word-count across the years. I guess I did this just to stay organized. It also made it easier for me to look things up once a Newsletter was published and I had moved on to the next one.

    Little did I know when I first got started that this spreadsheet would grow to almost 750 lines of data. It’s almost like a time-capsule. Thanks to this spreadsheet, I know that my first Newsletter went out in the Summer of 2010, a little more than 13 years ago. Including the current Fall 2023 Newsletter, I have put out 54 editions totaling almost 400,000 words.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Summer 2023

     

     

    It still feels like a mad, mad, mad world out there. On the climate front, it’s been quite a summer. We’ve had heat waves, smoke-filled skies, boiling oceans, and flooding rains. In politics, everyone seems to have gone completely nuts. A former President with four indictments (and counting) will probably be the Republican candidate for President in what can only be described as the battle of the geriatrics in 2024. In Chicago, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the CTU is now more or less in control of the city – which is a way of saying the foxes are in charge of the hen house.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Winter 2023

     

     

    I’ve been alternately intrigued and alarmed about recent plans to convert the LaSalle Street corridor in the Central Loop into a mixed-use commercial and residential district. The city says it would like to see a handful of functionally obsolete, half-empty office buildings converted into as many as 2,000 new apartment units and wants to solicit bids from developers to make this happen. But is this a realistic proposal, or is it just a publicity stunt in advance of a competitive election?

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Summer 2022: Reading the Economic Tea Leaves

     

     

     

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  • Ups and Downs

     

     

    I was trying to decide what to write for the Summer Newsletter. I thought about topics like the zombie eviction moratoria – just when you think they are finally dead, they pop back to life yet again… or all those billions of federal relief dollars earmarked for rent relief that were supposed to keep tenants and housing providers alive, but that have been endlessly tied up in red tape and administrative hell... or the elephant in the room – the Delta variant of COVID-19 that is rampaging across the country and that has completely dashed our brief hope that we would be “back to normal” by the Fourth of July.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Spring 2021

     

     

    Five months into 2021, I think we can all agree that things are looking a lot better for the city, the country and the economy than they did this time a year ago. Of course, there is one big reason for this. After a somewhat rocky start, the COVID-19 vaccination program is progressing across the country. As I write this article, more than 50% of all Americans have now received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number continues to rise with every passing day. The expanding vaccination program is having a measurable, beneficial effect on transmissions and hospitalizations. Equally importantly, it is helping people feel more optimistic again about the future.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Winter 2021

     

     

    Buckets of ink have been spilled describing the awful year we just lived through. And yes, it was awful. Who would deny it?

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Summer 2020

     


    I recently had to do an on-line refresher course on Fair Housing. Everyone in the real estate industry is supposed to know something about Fair Housing – both the legislation, and the shameful history of housing discrimination that made it necessary. Indeed, you cannot hold a real estate license in the state of Illinois without at least a cursory knowledge of this subject. Fair Housing legislation emerged from the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s and is intended to provide a legal back-stop against housing discrimination and the many wrongs it created over a period of decades and even centuries.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Spring 2020

     


    It’s still kind of hard to believe how quickly and completely the world has changed, harder still that this change has all occurred in the space of less than two months. We’d been hearing about the mysterious coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan since the beginning of the year. But, like a lot of news these days, it sounded like something far away and abstract – somebody else’s problem – or so we thought.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Winter 2020


    I heard a fun fact about February 2, 2020. If you turn it into a number with no dashes in-between, it becomes a palindrome. It’s also the first time in more than 900 years that a date could be manipulated in this way!

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Fall 2019


    We are staring down the end of one year and the beginning of another – and not just any year. Twenty-twenty promises to be like no other, with an election looming that will be as momentous as any in recent memory.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Summer 2019


    Mike Glasser has been a real Debbie-downer lately. Our illustrious President has been sending out email after gloomy email, mostly having to do with the increasingly hostile political and regulatory environment in which developers and property owners must operate.

    Sadly, these emails keep coming because things really do seem to be getting demonstrably worse. One email in particular really got my attention. This was an email with a link to an article that appeared recently in Jacobin magazine which describes itself as a “leading voice of the American left.” The article is entitled, “Developers Want to Destroy Chicago. We Won’t Let Them.” The author is Cristina Groeger.

     

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  • Ups and Downs



    It’s been a wild start to the year and much of the news, especially over the past month, has been all about politics. Now, I know I’m supposed to steer clear of politics, but I can’t help myself. Both the local and national media have been obsessed with all things political. And who can blame them? With the release of the Mueller report and a riveting local election, there has been little appetite to talk about anything else.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Will the Last One to Leave Please Turn Out the Lights…



    Chicago is a proud city with an impressive history – it was the fastest growing American metropolis of the 19th Century. It rose from the ashes of the 1871 fire to become bigger and better than before. It is the birthplace of the skyscraper and deep-dish pizza!

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Fall 2018



    We live in turbulent times. It seems as if everyone is angry all the time and, increasingly, willing to act on their anger. This was on full display the last week of October when a political zealot and all-around loser living out of a van in South Florida tried to send pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, and then even more so when another, even bigger loser walked into a Synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire. The eleven dead were among a congregation of innocent people peacefully gathered in the presumed safety of their place of worship. This was just the latest of a never-ending string of shootings with semi-automatic weapons that have become as American as apple pie.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Summer 2018



    By any measure, the economy is exceptionally strong. The unemployment rate was 3.9% in July and has been below 4.5% for over a year. We have seen an extraordinary run of net job gains which have now continued uninterrupted for almost eight years. The last time we registered a monthly job loss was September 2010. May and June both saw net gains of more than 200,000; in February, the gain was 324,000.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Spring 2018



    If you look at a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the last ten years, you see an almost unbroken upward trajectory that started early in 2009 at the depth of the Great Recession, and continued until nearly the end of January of this year.

     

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  • Ups and Downs - Winter 2018



    It has been an interesting year in many ways, both good and bad. A turbulent 2017 in Washington spilled over into the New Year with a government shutdown marking the Trump administration’s one year anniversary. Instead of attending a gala celebrating in Mar-a-Lago, President Trump spent his weekend in Washington DC in the wake of the happily brief government shutdown. This came after an especially turbulent and acrimonious week of in-fighting in Congress that came to its seemingly inevitable climax on Friday, January 19. As the clock struck midnight, no 11th hour reprieve could be found to stitch together a divided and polarized nation.

     

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  • December 2017 Market Update

    December 2017 Market Update | Steve Cain, RPBG Director - Writer / Editor
    December 4, 2017
     

    We have come to the end of another year and it’s time to look forward to the next. As my work load has increased, I’ve found it more difficult to find the time to do these monthly updates. As a result, I’m going to pull back to once a quarter instead of once a month, and my updates will appear in The Builder, the quarterly newsletter of the Rogers Park Builders Group.

    It’s been a terrific 2017 for the organization which continues to be a positive presence in the Rogers Park community and remains strongly committed to its well-being. Over the past couple of years, we have truly put our money where our mouth is, and we plan to do more of the same in 2018. Members of RPBG should feel good about the contributions we have made and deserve a hearty round of congratulations. I wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous New Year – here’s to an almost complete and very successful 2017, and best wishes for an even better 2018.

     

    Steve Cain is a local investor and serves as Secretary of the RPBG, and he also writes and publishes our well received newsletter, The Builder.The views expressed in Steve’s Market Updateare his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

     

     

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  • November 2017 Market Update

    November 2017 Market Update | Steve Cain, RPBG Director - Writer / Editor
    November 8, 2017
     
    The latest jobs report came out on Friday. It showed 261,000 new jobs created in October, a welcome reversal of the job losses that occurred the prior month. In fact, the October report revised the September numbers, shifting from a negative (minus 33,000) to a positive (plus 18,000) net new jobs. Unemployment also fell from 4.2% to 4.1%, the lowest it has been since December 2000, nearly seventeen long years ago!
     
    The October jobs report is certainly good news for the economy. Part of the reason the October number was so big is the same reason the September number was so low. You may recall we had some interesting weather late summer and early fall this year with three major hurricanes wreaking havoc on the economies of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, Florida and Puerto Rico. The devastation caused by these storms temporarily put a lot of people out of work. No one expected all of these job losses to be permanent, and the October jobs report is one measure of the ongoing recovery from those weather events.
     
    But the trend is still clear. With the upward revision in job numbers for the month of September, the US economy is now in its 85th month (that’s seven years and one month) of positive job growth. This is an impressive number by any measure, and represents one of the longest stretches of job growth the country has ever experienced.
     
    If there is any bad news in these job and unemployment numbers, it is that the distribution of these new jobs remains uneven, and is not widespread across the country. The Chicago area seems to be a good example of both the good and the bad of this trend. While the Central Area booms, the rest of the city and region are not doing as well. Overall, the Chicago area economy is growing, but at a slower rate than the nation and most other large metro areas. 
     
    One indication of this trend is housing values. While a few downtown and near-downtown zip codes have seen housing values recover to pre-recession levels, most of the rest of the city and suburbs have not. The downtown economy may be the region’s golden goose, but it is not large enough to lift the whole region. Previous large job losses in manufacturing, and current weakness in retail, continue to hobble many parts of the Chicago area. The region’s growing economic sectors are simply not dominant enough to completely make up for the weaker sectors across all areas of the city and suburbs.
     
    In my own experience, we have seen weaker demand and declining effective rents for our few remaining available apartment units in Rogers Park and other far North Side neighborhoods. Some of this is simply due to the time of the year. The pre-holiday months of November and December are often the most difficult time of the year to find tenants. 
     
    But some of this seems to be due to a shift in the market. After years of steady rent growth and strong demand, the market appears to be tilting from a landlord’s market to a tenant’s market. We have had to reduce rents and are still seeing tepid interest. These observations are anecdotal and personal. I can’t say that other property owners have been experiencing the same thing. But the pain is real – we are having a harder time renting units.
     
    Perhaps the continued economic expansion will rev things up in Chicago again and the spring leasing season will bring a return to stronger demand and increasing rents. I, for one, am holding my breath. The national trends do not apply equally to all places. Chicago is not Austin or Seattle. We are just going to have to live with that reality… and keep hoping Amazon chooses us for their next headquarters!
     

     

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