Tarver explains rent control position shift

Organizers hold up a board showing candidates answers to a set of “Yes” or “No” questions, including Rep. Tarver’s support for lifting the rent control ban during a Jan. 11, 2018, forum. (Herald file photo)

Staff writer

Illinois Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-25th) voted in committee against lifting the statewide ban on rent control which sparked a war of words on social media between Tarver and his constituents that drew the attention of, among others, the Capitol Fax newsletter.

But while Tarver had said earlier this month on Twitter that he “never” supported rent control, he acknowledged a Herald report from a January 2018 forum for Democratic primary candidates in which he supported rent control.

“If I said I was in favor of rent control, then I said it,” Tarver said in an interview. “And if you asked if I changed my position, I’m not in favor of rent control. I think my vote is clear on that. If there’s any disparity between whatever this article is and my vote, I want to be very, very clear that my vote indicates that my position, and that’s the reason I voted that way.”

Tarver pointed out difficulties two cities that employ rent control — New York City’s high cost of rent and San Francisco’s decreasing rented housing supply — as reasons behind his opposition.

“When you look at Hyde Park, and there’s a recent study to demonstrate it, Hyde Park was a place that discriminated the most in the city, it looks like, on the basis of Section 8 vouchers,” he said. “It’s not simply a matter in Hyde Park of whether or not rent is affordable; Hyde Park’s been discriminatory in general, and I think that has to be noted.”

Tarver said he has introduced legislation to outlaw income discrimination in Illinois and another bill that would create a protected class of individuals who have been discriminated against on the basis of an arrest — “individuals who have been arrested, not convicted, but are unable to get housing because of that.” He also has co-sponsored an amendment to the Homeless Prevention Act to allow assistance to pay rent or mortgage, a security deposit or arrearage.

“I think those are policies that demonstrate my commitment to not only affordable housing but to ensure that people who are in their places right now can stay in those places,” Tarver said. He also supports legislation that allows for a reduction in equalized assessed value for newly constructed or rehabilitated rental properties if owners set aside some units for lower rents and have a certain number of low-income tenants.

Tarver also said his vote to raise the minimum wage will lessen the chance of some Hyde Parkers becoming rent-burdened as rents rise, and he supports adding $1 billion for affordable housing in the Illinois capital bill.

At any rate, Tarver said most constituent feedback came against lifting the ban on rent control, though he only took meetings with organizations in favor of lifting it. “The realtors actually don’t like me, because of the bills I’ve introduced, and they oppose the bills that I’ve introduced,” he said. “So, this is not a situation where the realtor lobby came to me and all the sudden my position changed. I never took a meeting with them about the issue at all.”

“I can understand that this is a very, very pivotal issue for people,” he continued. “And I can understand that, because I voted the way that I did, some people may feel as though I’m not listening to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. My concern is providing an option that is a Band-aid for an issue that requires stitches. I don’t want to support something that’s ultimately not sustainable. It might be marginally helpful in the short-term but ultimately causes more damage than it does good.”

Tarver said he was happy to have a conversation with anybody on the issue and revisit it, proposing a forum on rent control and an advisory committee on affordable housing, similar to his youth advisory council, before 2020 legislation begins.

“This is not an issue that is not going to go away,” he said. “I heard from a lot more people after my vote than I heard from before my vote. And so if this is a bad vote that ultimately sparks more conversation and to revisit the issue, I’m absolutely happy to do that.”