“Logan Square for all,” a crowd of 100 protesters chanted. “Logan Square para todos!” The chants were among the demands shouted during a rally and candlelight vigil organized as part of an effort to keep open The Milshire Hotel, a single-room occupancy residence in Logan Square.
Advocates for the preservation of single-room occupancy buildings earned a small victory today as the City Council unanimously passed a moratorium on permits for demolition or conversations. The ordinance was introduced last month and prohibits the city from issuing permits to renovate SROs into high-value housing for the next six months, preventing a possible spate of development and additional evictions until a long-term preservation ordinance is passed. “It is good that the city is paying attention to affordable housing options,” said Robert Rohdenburg, an SRO resident and an organizer with ONE Northside. “Discrimination and segregation are all part of this issue.”
For low-income residents, seniors and people with disabilities, SROs are the only affordable housing options. The number of units has declined rapidly the last three years.
Low-income residents, seniors and people with disabilities are running out of places to live in Chicago as more and more single-room occupancy buildings are being converted into high-value housing. An SRO preservation ordinance — which has plenty of support, but plenty of details to iron out — was put on hold last month. In the interim, the city, aldermen and activist groups today introduced an ordinance that would place a six-month moratorium on SRO conversions, preventing a possible spate of development and additional evictions until the preservation ordinance is passed. The ban prohibits the issuance of city permits for conversion and demolition, as well as any action that reduces the number of units. Meanwhile, several stakeholders, including city officials, property owners, developers, nonprofits and advocates are working on a more permanent solution.
With low-income housing in single-room-occupancy hotels around the city threatened by gentrification, the redevelopment of the Diplomat Hotel in Lakeview as supportive housing offers a viable model for the preservation of affordable housing, advocates say. A crucial element for the project’s success — one which seems to be missing in other North Side wards facing SRO loss — was support from the alderman. The Diplomat is now Fred and Pamela Buffet Place. Located at Belmont and Sheffield, it features 51 furnished studio apartments — a little more than half of the original SRO units — and amenities such as a fitness center, computer lab and rooftop and courtyard gardens. It is owned and operated by Thresholds, which provides mental health services for residents and other community members, as well as employment and independent living counseling.
For many, the evictions were the final act in a drama that had been playing out for more than a year. Astor House was sold in October 2012, and its units are offered as rentals by a realtor known for turning single-room occupancy hotels into upscale high-rises.