Recently, this blog has discussed two stories published by NBC Chicago and the New York Times discussing the plight of America’s renters, particularly those in Chicago, suffering from the increasing difficulty in finding affordable rental housing. Citing a study conducted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the former article concluded that more than half of America’s renters were paying 30 percent or more of their income for housing in 2010, while the latter report discovered that rent as a percentage of income in Chicago has risen to 31 percent from its historical average of 21 percent.
Now, a third study, entitled the “How Housing Matters Survey,” conducted by the MacArthur Foundation, has contributed to this pool of knowledge showing that many Americans are making significant sacrifices in order to maintain adequate living arrangements. According to the report, over the past three years, more than half (52%) of all U.S. adults have had to make at least one sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage, such as getting a second job, putting less aside for retirement, shouldering more card debt, or moving to a less safe neighborhood.
The study found that renters and owners paying more than 30% of their income on housing, which is a widely-recognized marker of financial distress, have had to make many of the above-referenced sacrifices at higher rates. The report concluded that nearly 3 out of every 4 (74%) distressed renters have made at least one sacrifice to afford housing in the past three years. Among those that claimed distress in paying their rent, 27% stopped saving for retirement, 23% cut back on health care, and 23% accumulated credit card debt.
The lack of affordable housing has caused almost 60% of individuals to conclude that the government should be doing more to ensure there is sufficient affordable rental housing, and housing to buy. Both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have taken steps to curb the problems caused by high housing costs. In June, this blog discussed a new ordinance adopted by the Chicago City Council, dubbed “Keep Chicago Renting,” intended to protect the City’s renter population from the negative effects of an increasing number of foreclosures. That legislation went into effect in October and now requires any entity or individual attempting to foreclose on Chicago real estate to provide tenants of the property either a rent-controlled lease or pay the renter a “relocation assistance” fee of $10,600.
Both the Illinois and Chicago laws governing landlord-tenant relationships can be very complex and, although the provisions of the ordinance clearly favor tenants, it has yet to be seen how those protections can be taken advantage of. Accordingly, it is almost always in the best interest of a tenant that has become embroiled in a dispute with his or her landlord to consult with an experienced Chicago tenants’ rights attorney.
If you have questions regarding the rights and obligations you have as a tenant or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.