Thursday, March 30, 2017

Single-Family Homes Are Not Hotels

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

The single-family home I own is not in the 13th Ward, so I did not receive Alderman Marty Quinn’s recent letter about these new short-term home rental regulations. Click here for details.

But I’ve seen the buzz in local Facebook groups about his letter, and I’ve seen person after person in his ward respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” to his call for 13th Ward residents to step forward to sign a petition to block short-term rentals in the ward.

If I had one word to say to Alderman Quinn, it’s “Amen!”

Make it two words, and I’d say, “Thank you!”

This is exactly the kind of leadership we need here on the Southwest Side, and fortunately, we have it—well, at least in one ward.

Why our mayor—and most other aldermen—would decide to blow open the gates and allow short-term, temporary rentals of single-family homes is beyond me.

Really, why have zoning laws if we’re going to ignore them?

Sure, I’ve read the mayor’s statement on the changes made last year, couched in layers or reassurances that City Hall will maintain a watchful eye on short-term rentals and crack down where necessary. It sounds good on the surface.

But in a part of the city loaded with city workers and retired city workers, we know better. In situations like this, we know such City Hall assurances are empty, if only because the city workforce has shrunk so much in recent decades, there basically are no more inspectors. They retired and weren’t replaced.

Advocates for the changes will characterize short-term housing rental as a harmless process, like offering a spare bedroom to an out-of-town cousin or a clean-cut college student coming here to attend a conference.

If that’s all it is, I might support it.

But it’s not.

Among other things, this gives the opportunity for absentee landlords to make money at the expense of those of us living here.

Reminds me of a situation we had a short walk away from Normandy Park, about five years ago. An elderly woman—an empty nester--who owned a single-family home downsized to a condo in the suburbs.

But with the real estate market being slow, she could not sell her Garfield Ridge home for what she wanted. So as a temporary measure, she rented it out to a nice young man.

Only he wasn’t so nice. What the elderly woman did not know was that this young man’s nickname was Baby Face, and he was a gangbanger working to establish his gang in Garfield Ridge. Night after night, Baby Face and his gangbanger pals sat on the home’s front porch, flashed gang signs and made verbal threats and other attempts to intimidate the neighbors—men, women and children alike.

Standard stuff for a gang, I know, but it caused shock and outrage in peaceful, law-abiding Garfield Ridge.

Fortunately, our neighborhood watch caught wind of the situation promptly and took action, working with our local police commander to pay a visit to the suburban landlady and—well, let’s just say convince her—to evict Baby Face and his buddies promptly. And that’s what happened.

Granted, most people who’d rent a residence on a short-term basis are not here to cause trouble, and certainly won’t.

But some are, and will.

My concern with this new situation is that it opens the door for a hundred Baby Faces—and my neighbors and I have no interest in fighting battle after battle every time bad guys appear out of nowhere.

Besides, I see no need for homes across the Southwest Side to suddenly turn into motels. There is short-term rental lodging available all around—most notably the Bedford Park hotel cluster at 65th and Cicero, with more to come along the Chicago side of Cicero Avenue. There are always vacancies.

So my advice to those who visit Chicago and want lodging? Welcome--we hope you enjoy your stay.

And "get a room," as we used to say.

Just not on my block.

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