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Supporters Of Rent Control Hit Roadblock In Springfield, But Vow To Keep Up Fight Against ‘Powerful’ Real Estate Lobby

“The real estate lobby is very powerful,” Guzzardi said. “It is going to take a long, hard slog to beat these guys.”

A rally to lift the ban on rent control in Chicago.
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DOWNTOWN — Despite high hopes fueled by the election of a supportive governor and Democratic supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate, supporters of the push to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois are regrouping after a significant setback.

HB 255, authored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), which would repeal Illinois’ 22-year-old Rent Control Preemption Act, failed to make it out of the Commercial Law Subcommittee of the Civil Judiciary committee — dimming its prospects considerably.

Guzzardi said the bill’s defeat was not unexpected.

“The real estate lobby is very powerful,” Guzzardi said. “It is going to take a long, hard slog to beat these guys.”

Two members of the subcommittee voted to advance the bill while four members voted no.

Guzzardi said he would work with other Democratic lawmakers to figure out if there is another way to advance the bill before the session ends.

Two other bills focused on rent control are also stalled in the General Assembly. HB 2192, sponsored by State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), would not only repeal that 1997 law, but also establish six elected rent control boards around the state, which would regulate rent prices for different regions in Illinois, provide for tax credits to incentivize landlords to improve their rental properties and allow tenants to seek certain damages from landlords. A similar bill has been filed by freshman State Rep. Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago). 

Flowers and Ortiz agreed to push Guzzardi’s bill this session, Guzzardi said.

Related: Both sides of coming fight to lift rent control ban may look to California as model or warning

But members of the Lift the Ban Coalition aren’t waiting for lawmakers to act.

Activists will gather at 10 a.m. Monday at the Thompson Center to urge Gov. JB Pritzker to step in and lift the ban with an executive order.

“The governor campaigned on this issue, and he hasn’t stepped in yet, and we want him to get involved,” said coalition spokesperson H Kapp-Klote.

However, since the ban on rent control was imposed by a law approved by the legislature, it would take an act of the General Assembly to reverse it, Guzzardi said.

Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said the governor’s administration would review the legislation.

“The governor believes in allowing local authorities to make the decisions they believe are best for their communities when it comes to rent control,” Abudayyeh said in a statement.

Ryan Spangler, an organizer with the coalition, said the group would keep pushing to lift the ban, which advocates say will stabilize neighborhoods in many cities like Chicago facing rapid gentrification, pushing out low-income families from apartments where they have lived for years, while whiter, wealthier residents move in.

“It is just a matter of time until we get this done,” Spangler said, pointing to the deep and widespread support by Chicago voters for lifting the ban.

In February’s election, 18 Chicago precincts voted overwhelmingly to approve a non-binding advisory referendum question asking whether the state should “lift the ban on rent control to address rising rents, unjust evictions and gentrification in our community.”

Those 18 precincts join the 76 precincts and nine wards where voters approved a similar advisory question on last year’s March primary ballot, and three wards that voted yes on the question in the November election.

Mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle has said she supports lifting the statewide ban on rent control, while Lori Lightfoot has not taken a position, but only said that she wants more affordable housing units built across the city.

Related: More than two-thirds of voters in 35th, 46th, 49th wards urge lawmakers to lift ban on rent control; Fight over whether to lift rent control ban takes shape

However, the Supporting Housing Affordability Progress and Equality coalition, or SHAPE Illinois, applauded the committee’s action.

“We believe today’s decision is a positive development for the millions who rent their homes in Illinois because market-rate housing will continue to function without interference,” said Mike Mini, the executive vice president of the Chicagoland Apartment Association and a member of SHAPE. “It is true that affordable workforce housing, especially in Cook County, is currently lacking in supply, but the concept of rent control would make the goal of providing additional affordable housing less attainable because it would reduce the supply and quality of rental units to select from.”

In a statement after the vote, Mini said lawmakers should turn their attention to state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s HB 2168, which would provide property tax relief for apartment building owners who build new units or rehab existing units in their buildings, while agreeing to keep rents affordable.

SHAPE also supports state Rep. Omar Aquino’s HB 2090, which would increase funding for the state’s Rental Housing Support Program by doubling the $9 fee to record documents with an Illinois county, Mini said.