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
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
Wikipedia has over 26 articles addressing the matter of squatting in the United States. By squatting I do not mean the crouching position or the exercise technique, but the housing practice. We’ve covered this topic before, but that was mostly focused on the concept of squatting as it relates to adverse possession and had a whole bunch of cat analogies. We’ve never really addressed it as an alternative housing strategy.
There are a lot of reasons why someone would choose to squat instead of taking on a lease in their name. They may have a blemished history that prevents them from getting approved for a lease. They may be morally opposed to the concept of contracts or paying for housing. They may not have the financial werewithal to pay rent on any market rate home. They may be on a wait list for subsidized housing, which can keep them in a holding pattern for years if not decades. They may be staying past the deadline after a legitimate lease expires or after a bank has foreclosed on their house. They may be the significant other of the lease holder and just spending the night a lot, unaware that by doing so they’re breaking the law.
No matter the reason, it’s time to stop ignoring the existence of squatting or treating it like it’s a universally bad thing, always done with malicious intent. Renters know it happens, landlords know it happens. I’m not going to preach at you about it. This a guide to practical squatting for renters. However, before we get into the details I want to start with a warning.
Everything we are about to discuss here is illegal. In Illinois it is considered trespassing and therefore can be treated as a Class B misdemeanor punishable with eviction, jail time and/or fines. It is not likely to be legalized at any point in the future. If you choose to squat in an apartment or house you do so at your own risk. We do not endorse it, nor are we encouraging you to consider it as a viable option unless you have no other choice except the streets. Continue reading Roommates, Guests and the Mechanics of Squatting
This is part two of our analysis of Chicago’s new five year housing plan covering 2019 through 2023. You should probably start with part one, which ran last week. We’ve already assessed how well the city achieved its goals over the past five years. Now we’re going to use what we learned to analyze the new plan. As with our prior article we will be focusing on the plan for the rental market only, ignoring initiatives that support only single family homes. Continue reading Condemned to Repeat? Chicago’s New Five Year Housing Plan: 2019-2023
In our January newsletter I said that we were going to cover the city’s new five year housing plan for 2019-2023, which was approved by the city council towards the end of last year. In last week’s article (which you guys seemed to like, thanks!) I said that we would be covering it today, and we are to an extent, but not directly. We’ll cover it directly next week. Because as I reviewed it, it became apparent that it is a promise and a plan, and like any promise its worth depends on the reputation of the person who makes it.
There are certain times when promises and proposals are so exciting that we don’t think about how trustworthy the source might be. When someone proposes marriage, we’re often swept off our feet with relief and joy without thinking about how many times our partner has been divorced. When a landlord offers us an apartment after getting denied a few times by others, we might leap to accept it without reading the lease.
The new five year plan was breathlessly covered by media outlets, mostly because of its leap from introduction to approval by the city council in less than a month. As it has been approved we will look at it. But my personal motto is “remember where you came from.”
This is not the first five year plan for housing that Chicago has had. It is the sixth consecutive five year plan, which means we’re now entering our 26th straight year of municipal five year housing plans. So first let’s take a look at how Chicago did in keeping its promises from the old one, which was in effect from January 2014 through December 2018. Continue reading Accountability Check: Chicago’s 2014-2018 Housing Plan