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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill to lift Illinois’ ban on rent control has a been changed by the sponsors in Springfield.

Under the new plan local municipalities would be allowed to lift the ban by passing a binding referendum.

In other words, local residents would decide.

“We are demanding at the very minimum to have democracy in all municipalities to allow people in Chicago and across the state to have a say so,” 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigho Lopez said.

Lifting the ban on rent control would allow cities, towns and villages to limit how much a landlord can raise rent at the end of a lease. Supporters say it would help curb gentrification and protect affordable housing. 

“We need to give every municipality in the state of Illinois all the options on the table,” said Rod Wilson with the Lift the Ban Coalition.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated housing issues. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates the pandemic put 30 to 40 million Americans at risk of eviction.

Illinois has had a moratorium on evictions since March of last year. But some groups fear there could be mass evictions once the ban is lifted.

“Even though there’s a moratorium on evictions, it does not mean that they’re not incurring that debt right now as we speak,” said Wilson.

As the state focuses on renters, what about property owners who have to pay mortgages? The state and city association of realtors opposes rent control.

“House Bill 116 creates the path for direct government control of housing across Illinois,” according to the group’s website. “By repealing the preemption, government would set price controls on rental housing, harming tenants, homeowners and causing significant damage to Illinois’ housing market.”

Groups like Illinois REALATORS favor federal rental assistance funding paid directly to property owners. They said government price controls won’t lead to more affordable housing.

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