Doubled Up: The Homeless Kids Next Door

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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

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

The Chicago Teachers’ Union and Affordable Housing: A Rant

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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

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Would Pod or Capsule Housing Work in Chicago?

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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?

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

The Missing Side of Eviction Studies

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Last week the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, a Chicago based nonprofit, released another study on evictions using Cook County data cross-referenced against census data. Their results can be found here. It’s a worthwhile study which is certainly of equal if not greater interest than the information presented by Eviction Lab, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s PDF report on the interactions between eviction and homelessness, and Matthew Desmond’s seminal 2017 book on eviction.

These studies are all fantastic sources of data on the current U.S. eviction crisis. The researchers have all done some excellent work. But there’s a problem. They only focus on the tenant side of things.

A legal eviction is a five-party transaction involving landlords, tenants, judges, lawyers and the sheriff. It might also involve the police, the banks and the insurance companies as well. But for the sake of this article we’re focusing on the main missing party in all of these studies and data portals: the landlords. Continue reading The Missing Side of Eviction Studies

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Access All Areas: The Most Common Violations in Subsidized Housing

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When I started writing about common Chicago building code violations a couple of weeks ago I had no intention of this becoming a series. But the further I’ve dug into the matter, the more I have realized that it’s not only a serious issue, but one that is very difficult to get a handle on with a cursory review of the Chicago data portal. Since inspectors can only find issue with elements of a building that they can see first hand, the top violations we’ve found so far have been predominantly those which can be spotted without entering the building. Once we eliminated those, even the top 10 interior violations did not require an owner to be present, only a tenant.

In the interest of discovering the actual most common maintenance problems facing Chicago renters I had to go deeper. By doing so I uncovered something that might have disproved my thesis of the past two weeks. (Don’t worry, I’ll go back and fix those two articles in a bit.) Continue reading Access All Areas: The Most Common Violations in Subsidized Housing

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.