Homeowners in Pilsen and other gentrifying parts of the city who feel harassed or overwhelmed by the come-ons from developers who want to buy them out would get a new protection under a proposed ordinance that the Chicago City Council will consider at its Sept. 18 meeting.
If approved, the ordinance would prohibit real estate developers from contacting homeowners again for 180 days after the homeowners have indicated they’re not interested in selling. That’s contact via email, phone calls, dropping by the house or sending a letter.
“We have seniors come in telling us, ‘I get unsolicited calls every day,’ ” said the ordinance’s chief sponsor, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes Pilsen, a gentrification hot spot. “‘They call my family members, they come to the door, they send me their flyers.'”
While not all developers engage in pressure tactics, Sigcho-Lopez said, enough of them do that “people feel harassed.”
Sigcho-Lopez, who before being elected alderman in April was the executive director of Pilsen Alliance, a community group that has worked to keep housing affordable in the neighborhood, introduced the ordinance in July. Now sponsored by 30 aldermen, it passed out of the council’s Committee on Housing & Real Estate on Sept. 11 and will take effect immediately if approved by the full council.
A real estate agent who has represented homeowners and developers in Pilsen said the ordinance goes too far. “Homeowners are already protected,” said Philip Buoscio of Better Living Realty. “They can go on ‘do not call’ lists and they can put a ‘do not solicit’ sign on their door.” He suggested the alderman should “do more homeowner education on things like that that are already there for them.”
Blocking potential buyers from approaching homeowners with an offer, even for a specified 180-day pause, Buoscio said, “is interfering with the free market.”
The pause is a necessary protection, particularly for older, longtime homeowners, said John Betancur, a professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies gentrification in Pilsen.
“They have ties in their community, and they expected to live the rest of their lives in the house,” he said. “They want to be able to stay, but when the calls are coming all the time, and somebody is knocking on the door asking to buy their house, sometimes they think it’s easier” to give in.
Most homeowners in Pilsen and other gentrifying areas know very well that they can make good money on a sale and don’t need to be reminded every few days, Betancur said. “They know this type of sale is possible, but they’re not interested,” he said.
Sigcho-Lopez said that responsible developers who listen when a homeowner says no won’t be harmed by the ordinance. Only those “who don’t engage in good practices and keep making unsolicited calls” will be.
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