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Vanessa Beene/MEDILL

Supporters gathered at City Hall Wednesday to show support of the "Chicago for All" ordinance to preserve single-room-occupancy in Chicago.

Support grows to preserve Single-room-occupancy in Chicago

by Vanessa Beene
May 28, 2014

City officials plan to coordinate with local community groups to draft an ordinance that will preserve single-room-occupancies (SROs) and residential hotels throughout Chicago. The announcement came Wednesday as members of the groups gathered at City Hall.

The coalition, led by ONE Northside, met with representatives from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office Tuesday to discuss a proposed “Chicago for All” ordinance that would require building owners to obtain a permit before altering, relocating or demolishing any SRO buildings or residential hotel units.

“SROs for many is housing of last resort,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, who is slated to be one of the ordinances’ sponsors. “All this ordinance does is put a process in place where there are incentives to help building owners maintain their properties so that some of our most vulnerable citizens can have a place to stay.”

While the ordinance is in the midst of changes prior to its introduction, the draft states that it will require the owner or purchaser of an SRO to make at least 75 percent of the building units available for “very-or-extremely–low income households” within two years of building rehab or demolition. If the requirements are not met, the owner must pay an in-lieu-of fee that represents 75 percent of the costs to replace the SRO building or residential hotel. The ordinance also requires that each resident be notified 30 days prior to any sale, rehabilitation, conversion or demolition of an SRO.

For residents like Robert Rohdenburg, displaced from the Chateau Hotel last June and currently living in his fifth SRO, the ordinance is a hopeful sign that he will always have a place to call home. “SRO hotel rooms are the only housing that we can afford. The Chicago for All ordinance is the needed solution,” Rohdenburg said.

Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, another sponsor of the ordinance said, “In a humane society, we care about all people. Not just the rich people or the wealthy people, but all people.”

The coalition said it will continue talks with city officials in hopes of creating a final draft of the ordinance that will pass in a full City Council vote in June.