Mike Glasser on WTTW

WTTW airs Mike Glasser and Byron Sigcho-Lopez as they face off on the subject of rent control.

Mike Glasser has seen his role as spokesperson for small property owners grow over the past year. Mike is not only President of RPBG. He is also President of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance (NBOA), a consortium of neighborhood housing provider groups that have banded together to counter the growing calls from the Democratic Socialists and Progressives at all levels of state and local government to expand regulation of the housing industry.

One of the most hotly contested issues in recent years has been rent control, and one of the leading voices in favor of rent control is Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, representing Pilsen and the near Southwest Side of Chicago.

Alderman Sigcho-Lopez takes a very hard-line view in the rent control debate. Like many Democratic Socialists, the Alderman has a starkly black and white view of who the good guys and the bad guys are. Predictably, the bad guys are corrupt and greedy developers who delight in raising rents on working class people until they can no longer afford to live in “their” neighborhoods. Equally predictably, it is the noble and selfless Progressives (like the Alderman) who are the white knights, trying to defeat the developers and make housing affordable for all.

Mike takes a much more nuanced view, recognizing the affordable housing crisis, but defending small property owners who own most of the rental housing in and around Chicago, and whose businesses have been badly damaged by the increasingly destructive legislation that Sigcho-Lopez and his allies have been so successful in getting passed.

For a stark lesson in the sharp divide between these two camps, take a listen to the April 24th edition of Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices that you can view by clicking this link. In it, Alderman Sigcho-Lopez makes the same tired argument, railing against “greedy developers” and the poor, defenseless working class. He overlooks (or willfully ignores) the fact that markets are determined when a buyer and a seller agree to a price. Just look what happened to rents in downtown Chicago in 2020 after the pandemic took hold, followed by rioting after the murder of George Floyd, to see what happens when there are too many sellers and not enough buyers.

During the interview, Mike does his best to remain calm as he presents a rational argument explaining why rent control will hurt, not help, the renters of Chicago. Mike points out that most housing providers in Chicago, and certainly most of the owners he represents as President of NBOA, are not large developers. In fact, the typical NBOA member is a hard-working owner of five buildings or less who has likely invested a significant portion of his or her life savings in multi-unit buildings, and who depends on rent collections to maintain these buildings and provide tenants with a safe and attractive place to live.

Such subtleties do not fit the good versus evil narrative dished out by Sigcho-Lopez and his facile but flawed story of rich, privileged and corrupt real estate magnates versus, well, just about everybody else.

It would be nice to think that anyone listening to the debate between Messrs. Glasser and Sigcho-Lopez could recognize the hyperbole and scare-tactics of the Alderman, compared to the rational and reasonable arguments presented by Mr. Glasser. Sadly, anger and resentment get a lot more votes in contemporary America than reasoned, nuanced thought. This is the battle of our times. The future of our city will be determined by who comes out on top.

Anyway, seriously folks, click here. It may make you cry – it may make you want to throw something at your computer. But you have to watch!