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When the Chicago Housing Justice League and its legislative allies presented at City Council about Just Cause for Eviction in September, one of the more surprising opponents to the bill was the Chicago Rehab Network. That organization, which represents affordable and non-profit housing developers in Chicago, said that the bill would make development in low-income communities more difficult. While this has not proven true in any of the many jurisdictions that have Just Cause nationwide, it was nevertheless a disappointment that an organization which claims a mission of "creating, preserving, and advocating for affordable housing" would oppose such a common-sense tenant protection. After all, how will we preserve affordable housing units for Chicago's renters if its tenants are vulnerable to eviction at a landlord's whim, often because the landlord wants to remove a tenant and move in a higher-income household, or as retaliation for a tenant raising concerns about unsafe building conditions that they should not be experiencing?
Since then, the Justice League has met with the board of the Rehab Network, and has made several substantive changes to the bill to accommodate their concerns. While the organization gave some indication that these changes were appreciated and moved them closer to supporting the bill, it's now been six months since the subject matter hearing, and their opposition continues to be a key obstacle for Just Cause, one of the number-one stated reasons by several undecided alderpeople for not supporting the bill. Given that, the League has worked in partnership with members of the Rehab Network that support Just Cause to create the following letter calling on the Rehab Network's board to change their stance on Just Cause.
If you have any relationships with members of the Rehab Network and would like to add your voice in calling on the organization to change their position, please respond to this email and we can discuss further. Thanks in advance!
Dear Board Members of the Chicago Rehab Network,
As longtime allies and members of the Rehab Network, we write to urge you to reverse your stand on the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. At the bill’s subject matter hearing in September, Rehab Network Executive Director Kevin Jackson opposed the bill. This bill is of great importance to Chicago's 1.5 million renters, and we hope that you will reconsider your opposition.
After the hearing, several members of the Chicago Housing Justice League met with members of the Chicago Rehab Network Board to discuss the agency's opposition. Of particular concern to many Board members were the costs associated with the bill’s rental registry and the payment of relocation assistance versus CRN’s outstanding commitments to the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. CHJL made the requested changes with no objection to garner support for the bill.
The only change not made was one that would strip away the core principle of Just Cause, allowing landlords to evict or non-renew a tenant’s lease without justification. Participants in the call said they feared that losing the right to remove ‘problem’ tenants would limit their ability to provide quality affordable housing. While we sympathize with the desire to fulfill this mission without hiccups, the reality is that such tenants can still be asked to leave their units and that stating the problem outright could serve to improve communications with the problematic tenant in many cases, with eviction court serving as a very last resort. Between informal conversations, mediation, and the possibility of a tenant moving out of their own volition, there are many opportunities for nonprofit landlords and their tenants to work out disputes. Especially given that this happens with only a small fraction of tenants in the first place, we think it would be a mistake to oppose the bill, when this legislation would protect all of Chicago’s renters from the anxiety of a sudden, unwarranted eviction.
The Rehab Network's mission states that CRN and its members are dedicated to creating communities without displacement. No-cause notices are a major tool of gentrifiers and a key means of displacement of tenants. These notices make it easy for profit-hungry developers to push tenants out of their communities and for unscrupulous landlords to retaliate against tenants. No-fault evictions particularly harm low-income tenants of color, such as the senior, disabled Black tenants living in an 18-unit building in Bronzeville who were evicted with no warning late last year. No amount of mission-driven affordable housing can accommodate the large numbers of tenants who are dealing with these kinds of unexpected displacements each year, contributing to the worsening homelessness crisis our city is facing. In the long run, more money is spent, more people’s lives are ruined, and entire communities are lost or disrupted because we lack Just Cause in Chicago. We understand that as landlords this bill changes a few small but tangible aspects in the provision of quality, low-cost housing to Chicago renters. Still, we feel the benefits of the bill to renters far outweigh the inconvenience and extra steps needed to manage a disruptive tenant. Especially as some CRN members manage project-based voucher properties that have federally-mandated Just Cause protections, we question why this practice cannot be extended to everyone in the city.
As members and supporters, we ask you to do the right thing for Chicago's low-income tenants and support the bill. It is where your and our roots are. Your support of the legislation is critical to several alderpeople who look to the Chicago Rehab Network for their perspective, and we ask you to take that influence seriously and sign on today. Please let us know what the board’s position on the bill is as soon as possible. Thanks in advance.
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Latino Policy Forum