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Housing Thu Sep 11 2014

Proposed SRO Ordinance to Offer Incentives and Assistance to Building Owners, Preserve 700 Units by 2018


Press conference to announce The Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance
Photo credit: Becky Schultz

"I know that we like to fight. But there are sometimes where we have to sit down and get something done...and we got something big done in the city of Chicago," Ald. Walter Burnett said as he stood in front of dozens of community activists this morning and praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and the work of the Chicago for All Coalition at press conference introducing The Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance.

"Thank you for being concerned for the most variable people in our city of citizens: our students, our low-income wage earners, our veterans, our people with disabilities...a lot of them have contributed to this city and we must continue to do all we can to ensure they can live in this city and stay in this city."

A few weeks ago, City Council approved a moratorium (47-0) backed by Mayor Emanuel and a number of aldermen to halt the redevelopment of affordable housing units in single-room occupancy (SRO) and residential hotels for six months or until permanent legislation on the issue passes. While the unanimous vote suggested the city's support for preservation, the stance was proved at this morning's meeting. If passed, the ordinance will be a huge win for supporting alderman and community activists working towards maintaining affordable rental units.

"We've committed to preserving 700 units by 2018 by providing subsidies and assistance to building owners who wish to continue to provide affordable units," said Building Commissioner Felicia Davis.

The ordinance, which includes incentives to induce building owners (or those who want to convert SROs to market-rate housing) to maintain 20 percent of of affordable units in their building. Alternatively, building owners have the option of paying a hefty preservation fee to the city or supplying displaced tenants with up to $10,600 in relocation assistance.

Also under this ordinance, any nonprofit that expresses interest in maintaining a building as affordable housing has six months to prepare an offer. If the seller chooses to forgo that process, the owner has to pay a hefty preservation fee of 30 percent of the number of units in their building times $200,000.

Reverend Lois McCullen Parr from One Northside remains optimistic.

"This is not the end. This is the beginning," McCullen said. "We look forward to continue working with the Mayor's office to identify more resources for owners and potential owners to make sure the ordinance functions at its full potential."

 
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