The current shelter-in-place orders have accelerated an already hostile situation in the rental housing industry from a rowdy standoff into an all-out war. While the buildings themselves might not be alight just yet, pretty much everything else within the realm of the rental housing industry is a massive dumpster fire at the moment. Campaigns to enact rent control, eliminate private ownership, organize renters and slow the recent rapid rise of rent rates nationwide were already in process before the shutdown. Now COVID has provided advocacy groups new levers in the form of shutdown-related unemployment and low income essential jobs to further their causes. Landlords also have some advocacy groups of their own which are fighting to maintain the status quo and preserve the value of their investments.
The opposing sides of this war are not likely to reach detente any time soon. Their inability to communicate without throwing around fighting words totally rules out any form of negotiation. Instead of progress in any direction, we wind up with laughable and utterly toothless efforts to combat the crisis such as the utterly unenforceable appeal to emotion that is the Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge.
If you follow any of the news about renting in Chicago you've probably heard about rent strikes, protests and campaigns to ban evictions and foreclosures until the end of shelter-in-place orders. You've probably seen the names of many different not-for-profits floating by within these articles without really pausing to think about who they are, what their angle is, or how they operate. Today we'll be looking at some of the groups who have become players in the fight for the control and cost of rental housing, whether out of action or merely by running their mouths on social media. Continue reading The Rent Control Rogues’ Gallery: A Guide to Chicago’s Non-Profit Rent Advocacy Groups
There's a lot of blogs out there for landlords. Most of them are side projects of businesses selling products to landlords, such as apartment listings, investment services or property management. (This blog is no different, although our target market is tenants rather than landlords.) Given the marked absence of actual landlord training programs, these blogs have come to serve as the main DIY course syllabus for landlords working in the 21st century US housing market. While the content varies from blog to blog, they all have something to say about the big topics.
This week I visited 14 landlord advice blogs to see what they had to say about the biggest topic of all: the factors that landlords should consider when setting rent rates.
I've grouped the results by popularity and, of course, I will provide my own take on the matter. Continue reading The Land of the Blind: Are Blogs Misguiding Landlords on How to Set Rent Rates?
During the ongoing Chicago teachers' strike much has been made of the over 16,000 homeless students in the Chicago Public School system. That large number is one of the linchpins in the union's demands for additional support staff and a written commitment from the city government to follow their plan for increasing affordable housing stock within the city.
When your average consumer of news media thinks of "homeless children" they may picture a family or group of runaway children living in a shelter, or perhaps sleeping in a car or a motel. They might even picture that stereotypical family sleeping on benches or in cardboard boxes in the street. Some of you may think back to the stories from last winter of Candice Payne, the real estate agent turned non-profit director who rented hundreds of hotel rooms for homeless people sleeping rough during our run of terribly cold weather.
But this is not the case. The majority of Chicago's homeless schoolchildren (about 88% of them) are living in a situation referred to by the federal government as "doubled up". Yes, that's an officially accepted term. It means that they're crashing with friends or family, sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Continue reading Doubled Up: The Homeless Kids Next Door
Happy October! The 2020 Chicago rental season is now over. The wintertime heating ordinance is now in effect. Now, tuck in with a nice cup of tea because I am about to go off about the Chicago Teacher's Union and affordable housing.
"Trick or Treat!" We're all going to be hearing it soon. Small children at the door asking for candy and chanting a phrase that has lost all significance over time. Originally it was a threat: "give us food or we'll cause harm to your home." Before that, "give us food to keep the evil spirits away, because this is the time of year when the barriers between our world and the afterlife are very thin." Maybe the Chicago Teacher's Union remembers the original meaning of "Trick or Treat." They certainly are re-enacting it. "Agree to implement our plan for affordable housing citywide or we'll strike, and hundreds of thousands of babysitters will be very, very happy for several weeks."
With one week to go the CTU/City of Chicago employment contract negotiations have stalled over the teachers' demands affordable housing, not only for them but for their students. You heard me. While the specific demands of the CTU have not been revealed, we can get an idea of the scope based on their website. I will include my interpretation of their demands below, with a few personal side notes in parentheses. Continue reading The Chicago Teachers’ Union and Affordable Housing: A Rant
This week my Twitter feed blew up with people talking about Podshare, a business offering what they call "co-living" arrangements in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Co-living has been a thing for several years now, as has Podshare itself. The standard co-living M.O. is to offer furnished small sleeping rooms in shared suites within buildings that offer a networking opportunities, kitchens, laundry facilities, housekeeping and included utilities. The cost to rent one of these rooms is usually substantially below market rates for normal apartments, offered by the day or the month instead of by the year. They're marketed to underpaid twenty and thirty-somethings in trendy neighborhoods.
Those of you who have been following the "Classified Housing" series in this blog know that housing with amenities of this nature have been around in Chicago for over a century. Those of you who were around in the 1960s or have been to liberal colleges know this sort of arrangement as a "co-op."
The main difference between the controversial Podshare and other co-living arrangements is the sleeping quarters, where instead of a small room with a door you get a bunk bed in a room full of other bunk beds. Detractors complain that it's socialism at work and glamorizing poverty. Advocates call it a corporate answer to oppressive housing costs where government and non-profit attempts to cure the problem have failed.
My question is, would Podshare work in Chicago? If not, would the similar Japanese style of capsule hotels work instead? Continue reading Would Pod or Capsule Housing Work in Chicago?