Housing in Rogers Park
“Access to quality and affordable housing is a right that we will protect for every resident. No one who wants to remain in Rogers Park should be forced to leave.
We’re all together on this boat and no one is getting thrown overboard
as long as I’m alderman of the 49th Ward!”
It should come as no surprise to anyone that we have a housing problem throughout Chicago. This crisis includes a wide net of housing needs, from low to middle-income – both rental and owner-occupied. Rogers Park, always a community of renters, still has a significant supply of rental housing available in spite of many recent condo conversions. Yet increasing property taxes and condo conversions are forcing out many long-time residents, a crisis faced by both homeowners and renters.
We also have a zoning problem, which in turn creates conflicts between “by right” development and community needs. Chicago is becoming a victim of its own success as more and more people are moving back into the city. Many see Rogers Park’s vibrant and culturally diverse environment as very attractive. Some may wish to purchase and are attracted by the availability of condos, single-family homes, and two- and 3-flats. Others simply wish to rent, whether by choice or necessity. It is our challenge to accommodate both, while keeping those in our community who wish to stay.
Recently, there was an attempt to do community-wide re-zoning without first doing a community-wide plan. That’s putting the cart before the horse. Zoning is not planning; instead it is applied as the result of a plan. The current downturn in the condo market has created a de facto moratorium on condo development. This gives us a window of opportunity to create balanced housing solutions for the 49th Ward. The downturn won’t last long, but it does give us a chance to create a true community-wide plan before additional quality rental housing is lost.
For a long time Rogers Park has been a neighborhood that offered reasonably priced apartments in a community with many multi-unit buildings. Yet, quality property management and building maintenance have always been a problem. Poor management of these buildings contributes to crime on our streets because property managers don’t fulfill their responsibility to do proper tenant screening. Tenants and neighbors alike are then the victims of these irresponsible slumlords. Deterioration of the buildings, in turn, directly affects the quality of life for residents in these poorly managed buildings and in some cases lives are put at risk or have actually been lost. Both of these situations have been prevalent here for many years.
Finally, Rogers Park has been losing a large number of rental units to condo conversion. Estimates are that 4,000 - 6,000 units have been lost in the past six years alone. Though there are still a large percentage of apartments, we are in danger of losing what remains of the affordable housing that has made Rogers Park such an economically diverse community. Poor management contributes to this loss of rental housing. Very often when poorly maintained buildings are sold, the buyers often convert the units to condos. This occurs because the cost of purchase combined with the cost to renovate is so high that very often the only option is conversion.
What we need is not the typical piece-meal community plans we’ve seen developed over the years. Those have ended up collecting dust and sitting on a shelf in the incumbent alderman’s office.
To tackle the breadth of issues facing our community requires a comprehensive plan that has involvement and buy-in from a range of key constituencies, including renters, owners, building owners, banking and community development professionals, nonprofits, and residents. As alderman, I will:
1.) Convene a group of residents from every precinct and block to represent the diversity of our ward and charge them with helping me create a comprehensive 49th Ward / Rogers Park Housing Plan.
2.) The plan will be grounded in hard data concerning the opportunities and challenges facing our community’s renters and homeowners.
3.) The plan will describe specific actions that are to be implemented, some of which I propose below, and others which will no doubt arise from our discussions and deliberations.
4.) The plan will assign actions to a timetable and provide clear benchmarks for measuring progress, so that no one will have to guess as to what I am doing or why.
5.) We will develop a comprehensive set of zoning guidelines to reflect the goals and objectives identified in the plan.
Our plan will be guided by community input and will maximize community interests over the special interests that so often influence decision making in the ward today. Below, I outline some of the basic elements that I will seek to include as part of my comprehensive housing and community development strategy.
I will continue to support new development in Rogers Park, and work to balance development with housing that serves the needs of 49th ward residents of all incomes. The best way to retain the diversity of our community is to promote a healthy and diverse housing stock of quality and affordable rental units along with condos, co-ops, and single-family homes. We need to level the playing field so that when investors purchase and renovate our large multi-unit buildings there are economic incentives to maintain them as quality rental units rather than just convert them to condos. I will work to create those incentives.