People use The Bloomingdale Trail in Logan Square on Dec. 2, 2020. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LOGAN SQUARE — An anti-gentrification measure that imposes up to a $15,000 fee on developers who tear down single-family homes and multi-unit buildings in Pilsen and around The 606 has been approved.

The demolition surcharge ordinance, championed by aldermen who represent the gentrifying neighborhoods, passed in City Council Wednesday in a 37-12 vote. Wednesday’s vote comes after years of advocacy and debate.

“Passage of this ordinance is a victory for Chicagoans fighting for integrated and diverse neighborhoods,” Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said on Twitter after the vote. Ramirez-Rosa represents neighborhoods near The 606.

Under the ordinance, developers who tear down single-family homes will have to pay a fee of $15,000, while developers who raze larger, multi-unit buildings will incur a fee of $5,000 per unit. In Logan Square, Bucktown and West Humboldt Park, the ordinance applies to buildings zoned as RS3 and RS3.5 in the area bounded by Armitage Avenue, Western Avenue, North Avenue, Kedzie Avenue, Hirsch Street and Kostner Avenue.

It also includes large swaths of Pilsen.

The fees will go into the city’s Chicago Community Land Trust, an effort aimed at creating a pathway for homeownership for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans.

Local aldermen and community leaders have fought for five years to make the ordinance a reality.

“I’m sad on one level that it took us this long to get to this moment, but I’m incredibly grateful that we did get here,” Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who also represents the area around The 606, said Wednesday, adding that local leaders and city officials have worked “tirelessly” to bring the ordinance across the finish line.

The fees approved Wednesday are much lower than what was initially proposed in 2017. Back then, local leaders were calling for demolition fees as high as $300,000 for single-family homes, $450,000 for two-flats and $150,000 for every additional unit lost.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) was among the aldermen to vote “no” Wednesday. While Lopez “applauded” his colleagues for significantly lowering the fees, they’re still too high, he said.

Lopez, who represents South Side communities, said the fees will penalize longtime residents who seek to “generate funds for their families, create generational wealth for their future” by selling their properties to the highest bidder.

“$15,000, $5,000 per unit [for additional units] — that is an exorbitant loss that we are forcing onto people,” he said. “We can and must do better and not just assume that we can continue to create policy that forces people to do things with the property they rightfully own simply because we have no policy in place as a council or as a city to address legitimately how to create affordable housing.”

But La Spata and other proponents of the measure said the fees are needed to prevent displacement. Thousands of families are being displaced every year as developers tear down naturally occurring affordable housing, said Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who also represents the area around The 606.

“This is a moral issue,” Maldonado said. “I think the fees should be much higher, like what we originally proposed … the purpose behind all of this, we hope, is to stop gentrification, stop development and stop displacing us.”

Maldonado said he wants developers to “stay away” from the 26th Ward.

Maldonado himself has profited off The 606. He moved to Humboldt Park in 1992 and then rode the wave of soaring property values along the trail to flip four properties, pocketing $300,000 in profits in 2015.

The ordinance approved Wednesday is the latest measure designed to slow gentrification on the Northwest Side and in Pilsen.

In January, City Council passed an anti-deconversion ordinance aimed at Pilsen and areas along The 606. The measures make it more difficult for developers to convert multi-unit apartment buildings into single-family homes. 

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale Twitter @mina_bloom_

Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop Twitter @MauricioPena