Spring 2023 Edition
Rogers Park Builder
We all know that elections have consequences. Now that the Chicago 2023 municipal elections are concluded, it is fair to say that most members of the Rogers Park Builders Group (RPBG) and the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance (NBOA) believe these consequences will include increased conflict between our members and elected officials and a new round of legislative efforts unfriendly to our businesses.
At both the Mayoral and Aldermanic levels, the far left of the Democratic Party made gains. The Mayoral race especially was a heartbreaker, given housing providers’ near unanimous support for Paul Vallas. With Brandon Johnson’s win, it seems likely that the Mayor and City Council will be even less receptive to the legitimate interests and concerns of our industry and that it will now be even more difficult to own and operate apartment properties in Chicago and Cook County.
In the last RPBG Newsletter, we looked at the impact of the Illinois Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program (AHSAP) and its impact on housing production in Chicago. The article was, well, kind of long. But, as long as it was, it missed a really important point – one that Stacie Young tried to get me to focus on, but one that I just could not squeeze into what had become a bit of a bear.
So, to rectify the oversight, I told Stacie I’d work with her on a second article that focused on what she sees as the legislation’s most important benefit. In her words, it may be helpful on the margins for new construction, but it’s a “game-changer” for substantial rehabilitation.

And she’s right. She ought to know. Stacie is President and CEO of Community Investment Corporation (CIC), the Chicago area’s biggest affordable housing lender and the funding source for countless renovations that have been done across Chicago and the region since CIC’s founding in 1974.
Another year, another attempt by the far left wing of the Democratic Party to bring rent control to Illinois. Once again, the ringleader in this effort is State Representative Will Guzzardi (39th District), representing parts of Logan Square and adjacent areas of Chicago’s near Northwest Side.
This year, seven separate pieces of legislation all aiming to legalize rent control in some form were proposed. Of these seven bills, just two made it out of committee. These were:
Bisnow reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 102 into law on March 29, 2023. SB 102 does two things:

  • It provides $711 in funding to support statewide development of affordable and workforce housing;
  • It also bans rent control anywhere within the state of Florida.
The bill was widely supported in both the Florida House of Representatives and Senate, passing each state house by 103-6 and 40-0 margins, respectively.

The Bisnow article states: “The law includes $259M in funding for low-interest loans to developers building workforce housing; $252M for local governments to use as developer incentives to produce or preserve housing; $100M to provide down payment and closing cost assistance for first-time homebuyers in public service jobs like teachers, police officers and firefighters; and $100M toward loans intended to help developers close funding gaps created by the rapidly increasing construction cost environment.”
Like other northside neighborhoods, the Rogers Park apartment market continues to experience strong rental demand. Occupancy rates across most rental properties are in the 95% range, which is generally considered full occupancy by investors.

In response to this high demand, other northside neighborhoods are supporting thoughtful new developments to increase their rental supply, to alleviate inflationary pressures on residents’ rents and to enhance the livability of their communities. For example, in the Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods, there are currently more than 1,600 new apartments in the development pipeline. Further south in Lincoln Park and Lakeview, there are more than 2,200 apartments in the development pipeline. And in Evanston to the north, there are more than 400 units being developed.
RPBG Member and Principal of JAB Real Estate, Sam Goldman, came across an interesting report from the Office of the Controller / Office of Economic Analysis with the City and County of San Francisco. The report is recently dated: dated March 10, 2023, and it concludes that the current inclusionary housing requirements in San Francisco (city and county borders are the same) are “infeasible.”

Why is this important, and what does it have to do with Chicago or Rogers Park?
While Chicago and San Francisco are different in many ways, both have in common municipal governments that have grown increasingly hostile to housing providers and multifamily housing developers. In both cities, local requirements for inclusionary zoning have grown more onerous over the years. In both cities, developers of multifamily housing have warned city officials that there are financial limits to the amount of inclusionary housing that can be mandated before those developments are no longer financially feasible to build.
Tom’s contribution to the Rogers Park Builders Group over the decades has been huge. His status, until last year, as RPBG Treasurer was much more than just an honorary title. Tom is a numbers guy and has the resume to prove it. He used his financial skills to benefit the organization for many years, often working behind the scenes to ensure that the group was solvent and could pay its bills. Under Tom’s budgetary leadership, RPBG built up a large surplus that has allowed us to significantly increase our charitable work and make an impact on the neighborhood we love so much.

Despite his important work and critical contributions to RPBG, Tom has a much lower profile than many of his fellow RPBG Directors. There are several reasons why this is true, starting with the fact that Tom is not a person who seeks the limelight, but also due to Tom’s work as a math tutor that often kept him away from our monthly meetings since this work was mostly on weekends and evenings.

A year ago, Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that impacts movement and cognitive functions. Slowing the disease progression through intense exercise and diet is now a major focus of Tom’s life. This diagnosis prompted Tom to turn over his Treasurer functions to Steve Shah and to reassess his life and his plans for the future. The death last November of his beloved wife, Peggy, was yet another upheaval in Tom’s life and new incentive to reassess his future.
When I first took on the leadership of NBOA in the Fall of 2018, I knew that our organization would be advocating for neighborhood housing providers at the city, county and state levels of government.

Indeed we have. We made sure that our elected officials and the news media understood the consequences of ill-advised policies and legislation.

This year, we extended out fight to the federal level. Last January, President Joe Biden advanced a federal housing agenda purporting to protect renters and promote rental affordability. The “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” calls for more than 20 federal agency actions intended "to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing.”

To quote my Jewish grandmother, “Oy."

I can already point to one glaring example of how federal intervention into local rental practices unnecessarily hurts our businesses and the very people it is intended to help.
I’m a big fan of the NPR Politics Podcast. Every Friday, they end their podcast with “Can’t Let It Go,” a roundtable where all the commentators tell listeners what it is that happened during the past week that they just can’t let go of – in politics or in life!

For me, the thing I can’t let go is the outcome of the 2023 municipal elections in Chicago. Being the nerd that I am, what really interests me is what it says about the city and its changing demographics.

In my early days, I used to come to Chicago with my parents to visit my grandparents and other relatives. Back then, Chicago was a fairly conservative, largely blue-collar city dominated by two groups: one that was white and working class and the other that was African-American and generally lower-income. Chicago was a Democratic stronghold then and now. But “Democrat” meant something different in the Chicago of my youth. It was synonymous with The Machine, and the lines between the parties were much blurrier then than they are today.
As reported in Block Club Chicago, the last remnants of the Tent City that had taken over Touhy Park on Clark Street were dismantled and removed at the end of March. Block Club also reports that a 72-bed men’s homeless shelter has been approved at 7464 N. Clark Street.
Tent City had become one of Rogers Park’s most contentious issues and was widely viewed as an Achilles heel to the reelection efforts of Alderwoman Maria Hadden. As reported in Block Club, as many as 84 people had been living in the Tent City before it was dismantled. It is perhaps not a coincidence that efforts to remove the encampment accelerated this past winter, in advance of the general election held on February 28. Block Club reports that there were just two residents still camping in the park in February, a sharp reduction from the previous months and years since the encampment first took holding during the pandemic.
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Rogers Park Builders Group encourages and supports responsible residential and commercial property investment, development, and ownership in the Rogers Park community.