Imagine you are a retiree who owns a small apartment building and relies on the income from that building to supplement your pension. Or imagine you live on Chicago’s south side and own one or two nearby apartment buildings so that you can support your young family and build generational wealth.
Then imagine being told that because of the pandemic, you must allow tenants to remain in your buildings even if they aren’t paying rent or even bothering to communicate with you.
Your expenses remain the same—you still need to pay your mortgage, property taxes, and insurance and cover the costs of cleaning, repairs, utilities and refuse collection—but your income—the rent you collect from your tenants—drops precipitously or even disappears entirely.
This is the situation facing countless housing providers, who have been forced to cover the costs of housing their tenants even when some (or in some extreme cases, all) are unable or unwilling to pay their rent. Yet, these housing providers have received very little, if any, financial assistance to make up for their lost income
Approximately 70 percent of local rental units are owned by small- and mid-sized providers. A survey of Chicago-area of those owners last fall revealed that at least one-third of them are losing money due to tenants who have fallen behind in their rent payments, a statistic that almost certainly has gotten worse since the survey was conducted.
When a restaurant, bar or small retailer closes, it has a devastating impact on its owner and his or her employees.
But nothing can compare to the catastrophic impact on tenants and the surrounding communities if an apartment building falls to foreclosure because its owner is no longer able to cover his or her expenses and the tenants are threatened with loss of their homes.
When neighborhood housing is jeopardized, surrounding communities are threatened. It makes no sense to take actions to protect tenants without also protecting the homes they live in and the neighbors who rent to them.
As the General Assembly meets this week to consider pandemic relief, they must enact emergency measures to protect neighborhood housing providers.
Housing is more fragile now than ever before, and for tenants to be secure in their homes, their housing provider needs to be secure as well. If housing providers fail, their residents will be subjected to an even greater level of housing insecurity and our neighborhoods will suffer as well.
Michael Glasser is president of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, an organization of more than 600 neighborhood-based housing providers that advocates on behalf of the housing provider industry.