Continued Inaction Is Not An Option
Neighbors for Affordable Housing joined a host of community groups across the city to condemn the lack of action on the continuing housing crisis under COVID-19. Full statement here:
STATEMENT: Chicago Community Organizations on City’s Housing Crisis Inaction
AUTONOMOUS TENANTS UNION·WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2020
Chicago’s working class cannot afford the rent on May 1st. We are now six weeks into a shutdown that put millions of Americans out of work. Over 83,000 Chicago residents have applied for emergency rental assistance through the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant Program, a lottery which offered $1,000 grants to only 2,000 fortunate recipients. Meanwhile, the rest have been abandoned by their elected officials.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen a spike in illegal lockouts, late fees and eviction filings in the county court that violate both federal and state prohibitions.
Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council have done almost nothing to protect renters in this unprecedented crisis. While a minority of City Council members have pushed to suspend rent and mortgage payments as part of the Right to Recovery coalition’s policy demands, a recent report revealed that the Mayor has refused to work with the council on rent relief. On April 24th, City Council discussed the only ordinance proposed for tenant protections since the crisis began. After hearing tenant after tenant express their desperation during public comment, Ald. Brendan Reilly and Ald. Walter Burnett swiftly maneuvered to send the proposal to the Rules Committee, where bills go to die. Both these Aldermen have received thousands in donations from the real estate industry. The council also voted to concentrate power in the mayor’s hands, and not meet again for almost another month. We condemn this shameful appeasement of a real estate lobby that seeks to kill even the most modest tenant protections.
This lack of action is appalling given the increased scope of the housing crisis, but it is nothing new. Our real estate-approved housing policies have displaced poor, Black and Latinx Chicagoans en masse for decades, all to safeguard record developer profits. Just as the virus itself has disproportionately harmed Black and Brown communities, the lack of tenant protections is causing evictions and debt to fall most harshly on those communities.
Our mayor and city council need to take serious action: non-binding pledges by landlords and the mayor’s pleas to “give grace” are wholly insufficient. In fact, while the Mayor gives the Chicagoland Apartment Association a public relations platform to tout the "flexibility and grace" they claim to show tenants, their own Vice President Stuart Handler has entered eviction proceedings against tenants in seven of his TLC Properties units, which the Circuit Court of Cook County has processed despite Gov. Pritzker’s executive order banning eviction filings. The grim reality is that hundreds of evictions have been filed since Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order was put in place, and without universal rent relief, the end of the COVID-19 crisis will see the beginning of an unprecedented eviction crisis.
The utter lack of leadership extends to inaction on the statewide rent control ban, which, if lifted, would allow for an effective and unilateral city policy regarding rent. The ban, which was written and lobbied by the Koch Brothers’ conservative think tank ALEC, prevents municipal government from regulating rent prices. Gov. Pritzker has failed to follow through on his campaign promise to lift the ban, and continues to ignore the legal arguments that he has the sole power to Lift the Ban and #CancelRent and mortgages. Lightfoot says it ties her hands, but she won’t advocate for its repeal. A petition signed by 17,000, with support from state and city officials, has been ignored. Now tenants pay the price for their lack of leadership.
No matter what excuses our elected leaders make, Chicagoans won’t be able to pay their rent next week. Tenants will continue to organize against their landlords on a scale our city has never seen before, because their lives depend on it, and we encourage all tenants to organize with their neighbors to get what they need. The Mayor’s inaction and the Council’s insistence on pretending they don’t hear the popular call for rent cancellation won’t change this fact. We need real action now.
33rd Ward Working Families
Autonomous Tenants Union
BYP100 Chicago Chapter
Chicago Democratic Socialists of America
Chicago Teachers Union
Cook County College Teachers Union
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
Loyola Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
Mac Tenants United
Neighbors for Affordable Housing
Northside Action For Justice
Right to Recovery Coalition
South Side Workers Center
Somos Logan Square
Tenants United of Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore
TLC Tenants United
Uptown People’s Law Center
Únete: Little Village Community Development Committee
United Neighbors of the 35th Ward
United Working Families