Serving Skokie rental property owners, renters and homeowners
Here were some of the prepared speeches that were handed out in advance of the meeting. Not all got a chance to speak, thanks to the political maneuvering of the Mayor to limit speakers and speaking time. (Was the shot clock really necessary Mr. Mayor?)
I’m a 50 year resident of Skokie, 12 years as a landlord, and a member of the Skokie Independent Landlord Association (SILA). It’s no secret that SILA objects to this ordinance, but it’s not just landlords that have objections to it. Here’s what some other organizations (local, state-wide and even national) have said to the Village on this ordinance.
Housing Action Illinois wrote the Village on December 1st stating in part, “We previously contacted you about this issue in August 2012. We still believe that the proposed ordinance has significant problems.” http://housingactionil.org/
The Chicagoland Apartment Association wrote the Village, “The CAA has several concerns with the proposed ordinance.” http://www.caapts.org/
The Director of Government Affairs for the Illinois Association of Realtors wrote a 10 page letter outlining their concerns with the ordinance. http://www.illinoisrealtor.org/\
Representatives from the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance and the Community Investment Corp, CIC Chicago, have both voiced concerns.
To paraphrase the Shriver Center on Poverty Law’s letter, they say the center has raised numerous concerns with the Village. The Village feels the center’s concerns are unwarranted, since no lawsuits have been brought. But in fact HUD (the governments’ Department of Housing & Urban Development) has initiated civil rights complaints against other cities and the Shriver Center has threatened litigation too. http://povertylaw.org/
The national Institute for Justice called me personally today to say how egregious (their word) this ordinance is and that it is preparing a response. They also encourage me to contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). http://www.ij.org/ . But I did not need to contact the ACLU, because they had already contacted the Village to say that they had received a number of calls from Skokie residents regarding this ordinance. https://www.aclu.org/
Even members of the community group that originally initiated this proposal have spoken to me about issues they have with the ordinance. Meanwhile SILA - at the Mayor’s request – created an alternative ordinance that addresses all these concerns, and meets the Village’s stated aims, but later the Mr. Lorge and the Village Board refused to even consider it. I sent copies of the proposal to each Trustee over a month ago, and not a single Trustee, or the Mayor who requested the alternative proposal, has responded or even acknowledged it.
So what will passage of this ordinance mean? Landlords will be forced to not comply, for fear of being sued by tenants for violating their civil rights, while the Village is busy defending the ordinance in court. Taxpayers get to pay for the time spent in court, as well as the police department’s new “Neighborhood Standards Officer” – who is not required to do any actual policing and is not even required to live in Skokie. Meanwhile, the Village itself will be worse off, as life-long residents and good landlords such as myself, simply abandon their underwater properties and flee the Village.
Before this board votes on the ordinance, I ask them to consider what condition they want this Village to be in when the next Trustee elections come around.
My daughter grew up in Skokie. Then she spent four years as a student in Urbana. After that, she spent two years living and teaching in Thailand. So she’s a very brave and independent person. And through all her travels, she never felt scared. But now she’s back living in Skokie and she asks my wife to walk her the three blocks from our door to the Swift station. If she’s coming home from work after dark, she asks me to stand outside and watch for her walking home from the Swift. So I am for any ordinance that will make Skokie safer. Unfortunately, I think that this ordinance will have the opposite effect.
In addition to attending many public meetings on this issue, I reviewed all the drafts of the ordinance posted online, read what others had to say and studied all the facts. I was hopeful when the Community Advisory Committee was formed, then disappointed when their sensible recommendations were ignored.
It seems to me that the way to improve Skokie as a community is to attract more families and more residents who are invested in living and owning property here. Here’s a slide showing a page from the Village’s own web site. It shows the tremendous number of properties in Skokie currently up for sale. This next slide shows that 45% - nearly half of all property owners in Skokie - are currently underwater. That means that they are selling their properties at less than the amount of their outstanding mortgage. You would think that would attract a flood of Buyers.
Under this ordinance though, should a seller in Skokie actually get an offer on their property, closing will be delayed for weeks and cost hundreds of dollars more as the Seller performs an unnecessary village inspection. Why is it unnecessary? Because A) the village already performs an inspection of every multi-unit building every 18 months, and B) both the Buyer and the lender already perform their own inspections.
Even worse, should the village find anything that needs correction, this ordinance requires the Seller to make repairs prior to sale. This is regardless of any discounts the Seller has offered the Buyer, or the interests of the Buyer themselves, who may intend to remodel or entirely gut the property. The Buyer may also prefer to do the work themselves, or use their own contractor. This ordinance does not allow that, though it does offer one alternative…. 150% of the repair costs can be placed in escrow allowing the sale to close. But who is going to pay that money? Will it be the Seller, who is already underwater? Will it be the Buyer, who will already be making a huge down payment on the property?
The end result will be that Buyers will avoid Skokie due to the additional costs and headaches of buying here, not to mention the ongoing demands of this ordinance on a property owner. Properties will continue to deteriorate until owners just abandon them. This will certainly not attract the type of residents we strive for.
For that reason, I support the alternative ordinance proposed by the Skokie Independent Landlord Association; which encourages better management by existing landlords, allows the money raised through the tenant tax and landlord fees to go towards improvement of older or deteriorating buildings, and will not scare away private investment in the village. So I ask the board to please reconsider and vote no on this ordinance. Let’s make Skokie safer and better.
Let's start by getting some facts straight. First, landlords benefit as much, if not more, from safe neighbors as do the tenants, since they've made major investments in the property and their returns diminish if the neighborhood gets worse.Not to mention that insurance rates go up, maintenance costs go up, and the cost of retaining existing tenants or finding new tenants goes up. Also, most Skokie Landlords live in the Village - if not in the multi-unit building itself, many having gown up in Skokie. (The same cannot be said of the local police.) So we have tremendous incentives, both financially and personally, to do what we can to promote safety in Skokie.
Second, landlords were not against the need for the ordinance. Many put in dozens of hours trying to help the city to make the ordinance workable. Their objections were to components of the ordinance that were against the law (see letters to the Village from the ACLU and others) thus unenforceable, or those which would make Skokie less desirable to rent in or buy rental property in. They also objected to the fact that the ordinance was very selective, ignoring the Village's many rented homes & condos - almost always run by absentee owners. Third, landlords questioned where the money collected was going. They felt that the money should be reinvested in Skokie's aging housing stock through block grants or low interest loans - just as the village does for single family homeowners and commercial businesses. Finally, they questioned what positive difference this ordinance would make, since everything in the ordinance related to proper property & tenant management already exists on the books. They questioned why current laws and codes were not enforced and how this would change with the new ordinance. Unfortunately, the village refused to listen, instead making random cuts and changes to the ordinance that did not reflect or address the landlord concerns and often just made the ordinance worse.
The truth is that even the board knew this was a bad law - and said as much in their comments just before passing the ordinance. If it was a good law, why would the village only post the latest revision over New Years, then vote on it two days later, before anyone could review it? Why hold the vote on the coldest day of the year, after closing all the schools and warning citizens to stay at home? Why the need to limit public opinion to only nine speakers, with a special clock used to limit those nine speakers to only 3 minutes each? And why sit on the ordinance for six months, until the Trustee's biennial elections were over? The answer is simple. The SPD wanted the money to pay for a position they had already filled before the board even approved the ordinance and new Skokie Corporate Council, Michael Lorge, wanted to exercise/demonstrate his new powers.
Only time will tell if this ordinance results in a better village or worse (as the people on the front lines have warned) but the way it was rolled out cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Residents must retain a say in public government - even if that say is only who shall remain in office after the next election.
Did you have a speech you gave, or wanted to give, that you would like posted here? Have any comments you want to add or something you want to say to fellow landlords or village officials? Please send them to SILA care of this web site.
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