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Around Rogers Park: The Real Deal Reports Big Rent Increases in Rogers Park

 

The headline is ominous – “A Vicious Cycle: Skyrocketing Rogers Park rents may rob neighborhoods of affordable housing.” Thus begins Alex Nitkin’s article in The Real Deal, an internet news service that reports on real estate in the nation’s largest cities, including Chicago.

Citing information from a recent survey, published by RentHop.com, Nitkin sounds the alarm bell that rents are on the rise in Rogers Park. He warns that rents have increased by more than 8% “in some parts of the neighborhood” and are nearing $1,300 for a one-bedroom unit near Red Line stations.

The quoted site, renthop.com graph showing historical prices and trends for Rogers Park rents shows that in July, 2017 rents for studio, 1BR, and 2BR apartments were $863, $1076 and $1415 respectively. In March 2019, these same unit rents were $870, $1067 and $1428, an increase of less than 1% over the last year. – source https://www.renthop.com/average-rent-in/rogers-park/chicago-il

Nitkin is just one of a number of journalists active in Chicago today who work for small, on-line publications that focus on neighborhood news. Many of these journalists are young and idealistic, and strongly committed to issues of social justice and equity – worthy causes, both. But journalists get themselves into trouble when they allow their own personal beliefs to cloud their views on objective issues.

A case in point is the use of the word “skyrocketing” which is used frequently by many of these social-activist journalists who report on the Chicago housing market. Nitkin is far from alone in this regard and it’s not just the little guys that do it. WBEZ, one of the city’s most reputable news services, has frequently described rent increases in Chicago as skyrocketing with little concrete evidence or support for this contention.

The question remains – are rents really skyrocketing in Chicago? And what’s the definition of “skyrocketing” anyway? This Newsletter made an objective attempt to define rent increases in a previous article and found that, far from skyrocketing, most rent increases in most neighborhoods since the end of the Great Recession have gone up an average of 2% to 3% per year. By any definitions, 2% to 3% hardly qualifies as “skyrocketing.”

Nitkin and other local journalists do the wider public no favors by using extreme words to describe ordinary events. While it is true that certain areas of the city have seen steeper increases than others, and while it is true that some individual buildings have indeed seen skyrocketing rents (usually due to major building improvements), it is most definitely NOT true, by any reasonable definition, that rents have skyrocketed in Chicago. What is true is that these same journalists decrying “skyrocketing” rents always seem to overlook the fact that real estate taxes and utility charges have also seen significant increases in recent years, eating away and any perceived gain to property owners that would normally accrue from rising rents.

In the world we live in, complexity and nuance are always present, whether people want to acknowledge this reality or not. Journalists are supposed to know and understand this. We expect them to be objective and be able to back up what they report as fact, before they claim something to be true. In short, journalists worth the title should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. It is their job to do the research and provide evidence for any sensationalistic claims they make. To do anything less is pure laziness on their part. So, next time you read an article, or hear a report on tv or radio, in which rents in Chicago are reported as skyrocketing, ask yourself if this statement is backed up by fact. In our own efforts to research rent increases in Chicago, “skyrocketing” is not the word we would use to describe this phenomenon. In fact, it’s not even on the list of descriptive adjectives we would use.

 

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