Ald. Brendan Reilly, who represents more million-dollar condos than the rest of the City Council combined, is complaining about a new Daley-backed ordinance that would require developers to give tenants nine months notice and pay them $1,500 or one month’s rent before kicking their butts out on the street to make way for a condo conversion.
“That’s a 125 percent increase in the notice period,” Reilly told the Sun-Times. "That’s gonna raise the cost for construction loans. That, in turn, raises the cost of condo units. If our goal here is to keep housing affordable in Chicago, this well-intentioned ordinance is falling short.”
The Chicago Association of Realtors thinks the relocation fee is an unconstitutional interference in the landlord-tenant relationship, and is threatening a lawsuit if it’s passed.
In fact, the ordinance doesn’t go far enough. As some critics have pointed out, the condo market is in the tank.
“The timing of this plan is unusual, considering such conversions have slowed given the slow pace of the condo market,” ChicagoNow noted in September. “In fact, by many accounts the rental market has become lucrative for landlords, who are finding better occupancy rates because of an increase in bankruptcy, foreclosures and home-mortgage denials.”
That’s why it’s time for the city to extend protection to tenants who are forced out so their units can be converted to luxury apartments. Shortly after I moved to Chicago, I was snared by this loophole in the law. My building was sold to a development company, which allowed all the leases in the building to lapse, then gave every tenant 30 days notice to leave. That included a family who had lived in the building for 34 years. When they couldn’t find a new place by the deadline, the new landlords shut down the boiler. It was October, so my neighbors turned on the oven to warm themselves.
If tenants who have to make way for condos get a grace period and a check, so should tenants who have to make way for apartment renovations. It costs them just as much money and just as much hassle to move.
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