Lightfoot plans ordinance to address land speculation, residence upkeep and rent inflation

Mayor Lightfoot during Friday’s roundtable. (Herald staff photo)

(Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the story.)

Staff writer

At a Friday morning roundtable with Chicago neighborhood news organizations, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her office will draft a housing preservation ordinance to address concerns of South Side residents.

“My goal is to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to address the concerns of residents in the Jackson Park-Woodlawn-South Shore area,” she said, noting the fears of displacement and need for affordability.

Lightfoot said she realized that the city had not been engaged when she began reaching out to stakeholders and aldermen over the summer, calling it a “void” that was “pitting people in the neighborhoods (and) activists on one side against the Center and the University of Chicago.”

“We are working on and will roll out a plan to make sure that we are addressing the land speculation; addressing the fact that there are many older residents in that area, that they don’t have the resources to be able to keep up their properties through maintenance; and we’re going to address the concerns around inflation of rental increase,” Lightfoot said.

While the federal historical and environmental reviews have not had a public meeting since August —Lightfoot said her administration is “winding down the review process” and hopes it “will come to a conclusion relatively soon, so that we can move on.”

“Make no mistake about it: the Obama Presidential Center being in Chicago is a huge benefit,” she said. “It has the potential to completely transform those areas on the South Side — if we do it right. And I’m committed to making sure that we do it right.”

She also said she does not really have an opinion about the OPC design, saying, “That’s really up to them.”

Asked how she would ensure that communities of color would benefit from the development of the tech industry — notorious for its shortcomings in racial and gender diversity — in Chicago, Lightfoot said that the lesson from the Bloomingdale Trail, the elevated greenway running through the Northwest Side popularly known as the 606, is to be mindful about the potentials of displacement, land speculation and increasing rents in advance and to locally engage ahead of investments.

She said Commissioner of Planning and Development Maurice Cox has a plan to “void a lot of the unintended consequences” and highlighted her INVEST South/West initiative — slated to bring more than $750 million in public funding for economic development 10 Chicago neighborhoods, including Kenwood and South Shore, in the next three years.

N’DIGO publisher Hermene Hartman said the mayor’s messaging is having trouble getting through to local communities and asked how the assembled journalists and publishers could help, saying that “the city does no advertising.”

Lightfoot responded that the city needs to be thoughtful about how it supports community publications.

“You all are incredibly important to the lifeblood and civic life of the city, and we want to make sure that you continue to be present and thrive,” she said.

“We want to get our message out,” she said “There’s some really good things that we are doing that are going to really be beneficial to people of this city, and we need to get the message out. Everything else that we are doing in the normal course of marketing isn’t working well enough, so we need to extend our reach, and we need your help to be able to do that.”