On Monday, November 10, 2014, LCBH's Legal Director provided testimony in support of the Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate.
Mr. Chairman; Members of the Committee:
My name is Mark Swartz. I am the legal director of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing is an Ally of the Chicago for All Coalition and supports the Substitute Ordinance as submitted.
LCBH has been involved with several SRO buildings that have been acquired and shut down or converted, such as the Abbott, the Rosemoor, and most recently the Milshire. The SROs I have worked on seem to have the same general pattern: tenants are asked to leave with little notice. In the rush to empty SROs it is not uncommon that tenants are not given proper legal notice. They are just told not to pay anymore rent and that the building is being closed. Tenants that have nowhere to go are then evicted. It is also not uncommon that significant gut rehabilitation work begins, often without permits, while tenants remain. As has been discussed by others, these tenants are some of the most vulnerable residents, and we don’t know where they go once displaced.
This ordinance would protect these tenants, providing them with a voice, ample notice and relocation help. It would incentivize owners in negotiating with non-profit preservation buyers. Fewer tenants would end up in eviction court, where agencies like my own hardly have the resources to represent them all.
If I could end with a personal comment: As a resident who lives blocks from the Milshire Hotel, I love the grandeur of some of these buildings. I love the Milshire’s blade sign, the sense of history and place that the Milshire preserves, and the diversity the Milshire brought to the community. I lament Chicago’s loss of these SRO buildings.
Thank you for your time.