The Crusader Newspaper Group

Hairston accepts over $30,000 from groups that oppose rent control

Brookins took $40,000 from the mayor two days before election in February

By Erick Johnson

With rising concerns of gentrification in the 5th Ward, Alderman Leslie Hairston since February took $30,650 from two organizations that oppose lifting the ban on rent control, the Crusader has learned.

Days before her runoff election against William Calloway, Hairston on March 28, accepted $17,350 in campaign donations from the Chicago Association of Realtors, according to information from the Illinois State Board of Elections. The same organization that gave Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward) $12,750 in campaign donations in 2017.

Donations and ExpendituresThe Crusader had an interview with Hairston about a community benefits agreement two days before the donation was posted. She did not disclose the donation to the newspaper at the time of the interview. The state requires elected officials and candidates to report donations within 48 hours after they received them. The donation was posted one day after the Crusader published its special elections edition for the April 2 runoff.

On February 15, Hairston took $13,300 in campaign donations from the Chicagoland Apartment Association, campaign records show.

The Chicago Association of Realtors and Chicagoland Apartment Association oppose HB 255 and HB2192 in the Illinois Legislature. The bills would repeal a 22-year old law that bans rent control throughout the state. The bill would allow Illinois cities to enact their own policies on rent control.

In Chicago, the measure has gained much support in gentrifying communities where rising rents remain a big concern. In the South Shore neighborhood in Hairston’s ward, residents are concerned about whether they could afford to pay their rent should they rise after the Obama Presidential Center and Library is built in Jackson Park.

Pritzker and mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle support the bill, but opponent Lori Lightfoot has not taken a position on it. But an article in Crain’s Chicago Business said Lightfoot opposed the bill that would lift the ban on rent control. In February, voters in 18 precincts in Chicago overwhelmingly voted in support of a non-binding referendum that would ask the state to “lift the ban on rent control to address rising rents, unjust evictions and gentrification in our community.”

The rent control bill, however, suffered a major blow March 29 when the measure was defeated 4-2 in the commercial law subcommittee of the Judiciary-Civil committee.

Critics say lifting the ban won’t address the problem of affordability. They say more affordable housing developments are the best solution to address concerns of rising rents. But affordable housing developments are required to rent just a small percentage of units at a lower market rate. And there are few such developments being built in lower-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

“The only way to solve the affordability issue is to increase supply of housing,” Michael Mini of the Chicagoland Apartment reportedly told the committee. “The overwhelming evidence suggests rent control reduces the quality and quantity of rental housing.”

Avery Gardner in a statement last month said “imposing rent control won’t meaningfully address availability and would actually make it harder to obtain affordable housing.”

Dozens of protesters on March 1 demonstrated in front of the downtown officers of the Chicago Association of Realtors, demanding they reverse their stance on the rent control bill.

During a brief phone interview with the Crusader, Hairston was asked about her stance on rent control in light of the $30,650 from groups who oppose it.

“I have always supported rent control. It’s as simple as that,” Hairston said.

When asked whether her website or campaign flyers document her stance, Hairston said, “I don’t know that, but I have been very public about it [rent control].”

Hairston referred the Crusader to research the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times website to find out her position on rent control. The Crusader found nothing.

Hairston recently reversed her position to support a community benefits agreement in South Shore, where residents are concerned about gentrification from the impending construction of the Obama Presidential Center and Library.

Hairston told the Crusader in an interview March 26 that she always supported a CBA, but she was rarely seen at CBA meetings and protests. Her 5th Ward Facebook page is filled with positive news about the Obama Foundation, but nothing about the movement to establish a CBA.

Hairston was forced into a runoff last February after she won nearly 49 percent of the vote. Calloway won nearly 27 percent of the vote and has been backed by his opponent, former Hyde Park Editor Gabriel Piemonte, who won nearly 25 percent of the vote in the February election.

The Crusader was unable to reach Ald. Brookins for this story. Brookins, who took $40,000 from Mayor Rahm Emanuel two days before the February 26 election, faces Marvin McNeil in a runoff on Tuesday.

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