Fall 2020 Edition
Rogers Park Builder
Does anyone else feel like every day is Groundhog Day in Illinois?
Governor Pritzker first imposed an Eviction Moratorium by Executive Order on March 20th – the same day that he imposed a stay-at-home order. Both actions were in response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus which had morphed from a local problem in far-away Wuhan, China to an international pandemic in just a matter of months.
When the Inclusionary Housing Task Force first began their work in December 2019, no one could have guessed how profoundly the city and the world were about to change. The Task Force had just barely gotten started when the pandemic hit.
Cardiac arrest probably best describes what happened to the economy in the immediate aftermath of the shelter-in-place order that went into effect in mid-March. Downtown Chicago – the region’s employment nerve center – was especially hard hit. Seemingly overnight, the Central Area was transformed from a first-choice location to a place best avoided.
Inclusionary zoning has gotten a lot of attention in Chicago over this past year! A related article in this Newsletter looks at the recently released Inclusionary Housing Task Force Staff Report, issued by the City’s Department of Housing in September. The Staff Report contains a range of recommendations, some of which our industry will likely support, and others that range from intriguing to downright scary.
Not surprisingly, some of the most strident voices on the far left of the political spectrum are responsible for the most over-the-top recommendations that made their way into the Staff Report. This faction has a standard-bearer. His name is Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Alderman of the 25th Ward, representing Pilsen and nearby areas. Alderman Sigcho-Lopez was one of the Aldermanic Co-Sponsors of the Task Force along with Harry Osterman (48th Ward) and Walter Burnett (27th Ward).
The results are in! And the answer is?
The pain of the on-going eviction moratorium is still being widely felt across the real estate industry and likely to get worse before it gets better.
Developer is Encouraged by Productive Discussions with 49th Ward Office

For years, the middle of the 1200 block of West Pratt Avenue sat vacant and unused. Formally a Synagogue, the site has been vacant since the early 2000s when a plan to redevelop it with a mix of apartments and a new Synagogue fell apart. In the years since, we have experienced a major recession featuring a ruinous housing market crash in Rogers Park, and now a global pandemic.
Residences at 1233 W Pratt Rendering
You would think that these conditions would be enough to dissuade anyone from even thinking about building a apartment property on Pratt. Well, call him crazy if you like, but one of our members is confident enough about the future of Chicago and the Rogers Park community to do just that.
Katrina Bilella never wanted to be the poster child for small property owners struggling with deadbeat tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that is exactly what she became in the wake of the eviction moratorium, first enacted by Governor Pritzker in March, with no end in sight.
Katrina was already having difficulties with her tenants before the COVID-19 emergency hit. But once it did, her tenants smelled an opportunity, and decided to milk it for all it was worth. Like many small property owners, Katrina found herself caught in the cross-hairs of an eviction moratorium that guaranteed her tenants free housing while providing no protections or relief to her.
Over the past three decades, RPBG Director Doug Imber has grown Essex Realty Group, Inc. from a fledgling brokerage business into one of the region’s premier mid-market investment sales companies. Then as now, Essex Realty has always had a strong focus on apartment product, particularly the small to medium sized buildings that can be found in nearly every Chicago neighborhood and that provide so much of the rental housing where many Chicagoans live.
The company’s steady rise to prominence in the Chicago market is a testament to the hard work, business acumen and high level of customer service that has always been a hallmark of Essex. Another key element of the company’s success is the reputation it has established for fairness and honesty. These values are fundamental to the company and its founder.
It happened just over a year ago.

A five-year tenant with whom I had a decent relationship emailed me, asking me to let her out of her lease at the end of the month, which was in 20 days.

I responded reasonably: “I’m sorry, but with less than a month’s notice, I can’t just let you out of your lease, especially on November 1st, the toughest time of the year to find new tenants. If you’re unhappy, let’s try to work something out.”
Steve Cain
I think we can all agree—it’s been a rough year for everyone. But for Chicago, it has been even worse. By most measures, the city had been under-performing its peer—group of other, large American cities for at least a decade — losing population, adding fewer jobs and always in the public eye for all the wrong reasons, including entrenched political corruption and a sky high murder rate.

But 2020 pushed all of these negatives to new levels of bad. First the pandemic, then George Floyd followed quickly by not one, but two rounds of looting and vandalism. To make it all worse, this was occurring at the same time that the city was under relentless attack, both externally and internally. From the outside, these attacks came mainly from a hostile Trump Administration that delighted in making Chicago exhibit A in its disparagement of urban America.
Chicago COVID-19 Eviction Ordinance
Verella Osborne, President, Legal Document Management, Inc.
Well, I’ve thought long and hard to find any good news for Illinois housing providers and the situation just gets bleaker. Most of you have been advised, ad nauseum, of the Illinois moratorium on filing and enforcing residential evictions now extended through the end of the year, with additional extensions likely.

A couple of points regarding the Illinois moratorium:

Around Rogers Park
This year has been challenging in ways that most of us could never have imagined. All the more reason for RPBG to be true to its mission and support our community that has rarely been in greater need of our good works.

The following is a tally of the direct and indirect giving from RPBG in 2020:
(773) 728-9900 | www.rpbg.org
Rogers Park Builders Group encourages and supports responsible residential and commercial property investment, development, and ownership in the Rogers Park community.