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Hunter holds hearing in Chicago on solutions to affordable housing crisis

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CHICAGO – In her third stop on a statewide tour, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) convened the Senate Special Committee on Housing Thursday to look for ways to address the issues of lack of affordable housing and rising rent prices.

“It’s not hyperbole to say that we face a crisis,” Hunter said. “Skyrocketing housing costs affect our entire state and all types of communities. We know that the demand is great, and that’s why we’re on this tour to find new and innovative solutions to help preserve affordable housing options.”

More than 200 people attended the Senate Special Committee in Chicago to weigh in on lifting a statewide ban on rent control.

Currently, Illinois is one of 35 states across the country with a rent control ban. Hunter discussed her legislation which would lift the 1997 ban on state and city governments enacting any measure that would regulate or control rent prices on private property.

Hunter’s measure would establish elected rent control boards across the state, divided into six regions. The boards would regulate rent for households of specified income levels and could restrict annual rent increases to the rate of inflation. They could also create rules on how much notice must be given before rent is increased and would oversee the creation of a reserve account for landlords to pay for repairs and building improvements.

“Although this bill is focused on rent control, it is only one of the options that we’re pursuing,” Hunter said. “My overall goal with these hearings is to gather as much information as we can, so that we have all the tools we need to move forward, and craft a legislative solution that creates strong communities and expands access to safe, decent and affordable housing.

Housing experts, landlords and renters were all available to provide testimony on lifting the state rent control ban.

Many of the rent control supporters said that neighborhood gentrification is driving up housing costs and making some communities unaffordable. They believe that restricting rent increases would help more people stay in their homes and protect the vitality of the community.

On the other side, rent control opponents, including real estate agents and landlords, argued that rent control is counterproductive and would result in adverse effects like higher property taxes and lower property values. They also pointed out that it could hurt mom-and-pop landlords who are already struggling to turn a profit on their properties.

“This housing crisis is everybody’s problem,” Hunter said. “It’s also a solvable problem, but it’s clear that there needs to a considerate and holistic approach to a neighborhood’s needs and collaboration with community leaders and various stakeholders to help residents maintain roots within their communities.”

Hunter’s next stop on her statewide tour will be in early November in East St. Louis.