You are here: Home Rent Control: There Are Better Ways…

Rent Control: There Are Better Ways…

Rent Control: There Are Better Ways…

Excerpt #3 of 3: An Open Letter to State Representative Will Guzzardi, House District 39, Illinois General Assembly:

Why Rent Control is a Bad Idea for Chicago… and Everywhere Else.

THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOAL: Perhaps we have been unable to convince you that rent control is ineffective in helping lower-income families find and keep good housing in good neighborhoods, or that local and state governments should refrain from burdening one class of citizens with the cost of providing affordable housing to lower-income families. If so, consider our last argument that there are better ways to accomplish your goal.

But, before we offer you some alternatives, let me state that the members of RPBG believe that affordable housing is an important and worthy goal to pursue. Rogers Park is arguably the city’s most diverse neighborhood with people of every description at all income levels who live together in relative harmony. We take great pride in the Rogers Park community and its unique diversity. We would like to see that character preserved and believe Chicago would be a better city if more of it was like Rogers Park. We want Rogers Park to remain a welcoming and affordable place for all to live.

If we can all agree that the goal of creating and preserving affordable housing is a worthy one, we are not able to agree with you on how this goal should be reached. In particular, we do not want to see ineffective measures adopted, at our expense. Such ineffective measures certainly include rent control.

Here then are a few alternatives that RPBG believes could better accomplish the important goal of preserving affordable housing in desirable communities – like our own Rogers Park – but without placing the burden of this cost on property owners.

Expand the Section 8 voucher program:

  • Advantages – This is probably the best way to help lower-income families deal with the ever-increasing cost of rental housing. It is also the fairest way to share the cost, since this is a Federal program paid with income tax revenues from everyone who files a tax return. Section 8 has helped millions of families cover the cost of housing at just 30% of household income. The problem is, there are not enough vouchers for all the people who need them.
  • Disadvantages – As a Federal program under a new administration that has shown little support for affordable housing, any expansion of the voucher program is a long-term goal and not one that can be easily implemented over the short-term.

Create more permissive zoning that allows for higher density and smaller average unit sizes:

  • Advantages – Chicago controls its own destiny regarding what can be built and where. Small changes in current zoning regulations can result in the production of more units, at more affordable prices, if we have the will to push them through. Current building codes remain onerous and expensive to implement. The city could do more to relax building codes without compromising safety or good building standards. They could also allow greater density and smaller average unit sizes in high demand areas. These measures could lower the cost and increase the availability of housing in areas where the demand is greatest.
  • Disadvantages – NIMBY-ism is hard to combat. In gentrifying neighborhoods, residents bemoan the new people moving to the area and the rising rents that inevitably result. But they resist efforts to expand the housing base that could relieve some of the upward pressure on rents. You can’t have it both ways. Popular neighborhoods need more housing to meet increased demand. Either build more housing by implementing more permissive zoning and common-sense building code modifications, or accept the rapid increase in rents for the existing housing that is already there.

Encourage development across the city:

  • Advantages – For every Logan Square or Pilsen, there are many more Englewood’s and Austin’s. Rather than focus exclusively on rising rents in just a few places, we should find ways to channel some of this energy into other parts of the city. Chicago is increasingly turning into a city of “have’s” and “have not’s.” There should be creative strategies that state and local governments can utilize to spread this growing affluence across a wider geography. Better schools in all city neighborhoods would go a long way toward encouraging development beyond the North Side and greater downtown area. Better city services, expanded transportation options and a renewed focus on community policing could all work to improve neighborhoods that have not seen any of the benefits from the rampant development in just a handful of “hot” neighborhoods.
    At RPBG, we would be much more receptive to “carrots” that “sticks.” (I’m sure we are not the only group of people who do not like being treated with sticks by our elected officials.) To be clear, rent control is a stick. Development incentives might be a tool for providing some benefits to property owners who could be enticed to buy, renovate or develop new housing in emerging neighborhoods.
  • Disadvantages – Incentives cost money, and the state and city are both broke. This may be a big challenge. But cries of poverty are not a good excuse for the shameless transfer of public costs onto private shoulders. Affordable housing should be a shared burden. The city and state will be acting irresponsibly and unfairly if they try to push this cost onto the backs of property owners. We ask you to work with us to find creative solutions to affordable housing, not against us to force the transfer of public responsibilities into private hands.

RPBG has worked hard to be a good partner in Rogers Park, one of the city’s great neighborhoods. We have worked hard to forge relationships at all levels with a wide cross-section of community leaders. We would be happy to work with you as well on productive efforts to help solve the problem of affordable housing and rapidly rising rents in certain areas.

But we will fight any attempt to use methods that don’t work, or that place this burden exclusively on our shoulders. We call on you to consider our arguments and find a better way to help your constituents. We are convinced that your proposed legislation will accomplish none of your goals. Worse, we are convinced it will hurt your constituents, as it will hurt all of the people of Chicago.

Rent control is unquestionably unfair to property owners. It will make the housing market in Chicago less competitive; it will lower housing quality as property owners are forced to reduce maintenance and repairs in the face of their inability to pass along these costs; ultimately, it will make housing scarcer and more expensive for everyone.

San Francisco and New York are not models for anyone to follow. These cities are among the least welcoming to lower-income families in the country. It is not a coincidence that both cities have had rent control in place for many years. Chicago has avoided this fate by wisely avoiding rent control. We should work together to find better ways to solve the affordable housing problems we face.

Thank you,

Rogers Park Builders Group:
Allen Smith, President
Marty Max, Vice President
Steve Cain, Secretary
Mike Glasser, Communications, Planning and Development

 

Call us

Send us an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call on (773) 491-1235

 

Search

Contact

  • PO BOX 608492, Chicago, IL 60660
  • (773) 728-9900

 

Newsletter