The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s Courtyard Apartment Buildings

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If you’ve rented in Chicago for very long you’ve probably lived in a courtyard apartment building. If not, you’ve probably at least visited someone who lives in one. There’s thousands of them all throughout the city, with the exception of the downtown areas which are dominated by skyscrapers. A standard “U”-shaped courtyard building is a three story tall walkup building with five entrances surrounding a central green space. Each entrance usually has six apartments, sometimes seven or eight if there’s finished basement apartments.

In addition to the standard U shape, there’s also half courtyards (shaped like an “L”), 1.5 courtyards (shaped like an “S” and usually on block corners) and double courtyards (shaped like a “W”), but they’re all basically similar. These buildings are unique to the Chicago area and almost invariably about 100 years old.

Today we’re going to explore the reason why we’ve got so many of them, and also why we don’t see many new ones popping up in the 21st century landscape. Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s Courtyard Apartment Buildings

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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.

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.

New Protections for Renters with Criminal Records in Illinois and Cook County

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Back in 2016, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a memo stating that criminal background checks should only be used by landlords with extreme caution, and that applicants with criminal histories should be considered on a case by case basis. This was issued in response to statistics showing that persons of color are disproportionately exposed to the criminal justice system across the nation.

In recent months, various Illinois legislative groups have taken steps to formalize protection of ex-cons in the housing market. Two new laws, one at the state level and one at the county level, will take effect between now and the start of 2020. Today we will review both of them and what they’re likely to mean for renters. Continue reading New Protections for Renters with Criminal Records in Illinois and Cook County

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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.

Tort Reform or Gross Injustice? HUD’s proposed changes to Disparate Impact Discrimination Cases

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So this week I was going to have a nice little 10 list for you guys about the reasons why renters file complaints against their neighbors in apartment buildings. But that’s going to have to wait a couple of weeks because the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has decided to propose some changes the way they handle disparate impact cases. I really can’t post a 10 list when this sort of thing is going on or the Twitterverse will eat me for lunch.

Longtime readers will know that I try to take a neutral stance on most hot-button issues in a sort of infuriating way. This time is no different. Most of the articles I’ve seen are decrying the changes as hostile to minorities, and yes, that is definitely a problem. But I have been calling for tort reform in the area of landlord-tenant litigation for 13 years now, and have done so no less than five times so far in this blog alone. Having gotten my wish, even if it’s in a really icky area, I would be remiss to immediately take a stance either way without fully investigating the changes.

Now I know this may disappoint some of you, especially given the length of what I’m about to put out there, but I can’t give you my full take on the changes today. It’s too early in the process and there’s some missing pieces of data that I need before I feel comfortable making a judgment call. So I’ll have to follow this up with that information next week if I can find it. But I can give you some initial first impressions and an overview of the changes as I understand them. Continue reading Tort Reform or Gross Injustice? HUD’s proposed changes to Disparate Impact Discrimination Cases

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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.