Housing Protections For Seniors Clear Council Panel

Ordinance would force developers and building owners that receive public funds to give notice, create a plan and communicate with residents before rehabs occur.

Frank Hill (left) hopes an ordinance protecting seniors living in public housing will pass the City Council next week. The measure, sponsored by Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th, (right) cleared a council committee Wednesday. (Alejandra Cancino/BGA)

Chicago aldermen on Wednesday unanimously passed an ordinance that would give many of the city’s poorest senior citizens a bigger say in how they are treated by their landlords during renovations.

The measure follows years of complaints by tenants of the Chicago Housing Authority who argued their public housing apartment buildings had malfunctioning elevators, sporadic heat and other unsafe conditions. The Better Government Association and WBEZ last year detailed many of those problems.

The ordinance — written with help of housing advocates such as the Jane Addams Senior Caucus — requires developers and owners of larger residential buildings that rent to seniors and receive city funds, including the Chicago Housing Authority, to have individualized plans for how to accommodate tenants during renovations.

The measure, which passed the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate and stands to become law if approved by the full City Council when it meets next week, was originally intended to make requirements for landlords and developers regardless of the age of their tenants.

But the ordinance’s sponsor, Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th, said he agreed to water it down so it was limited to only senior housing in order to avoid opposition from the CHA and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The measure also requires developers to work with tenants one-on-one to accommodate special needs, such as grab bars. It sets firm deadlines for residents to be informed of moves, changes or delays, and it includes daily fines of up to $500 for landlords or developers who do not comply with the new rules.

One resident who helped draft the the ordinance said he is optimistic the measure will pass the full council next week.

“Once we get it passed — get the vote — I’ll be dancing,” said Frank Hill, 69, a tenant at Judge Fisher Apartments in Edgewater. “We are seniors. Time is not on our side.”