Chicago DSA Fights for Rent Control on the November Ballot

The Lift the Ban Coalition knocked thousands of doors this year in its mission to end Illinois’ ban on rent control. As a member of this coalition, Chicago DSA is taking up the fight to pass referenda in favor of rent control in the 35th, 46th, and 49th wards this election day, November 6th.

In the 49th Ward, DSA volunteers collected 400 signatures from citizens who believe Rogers Park should remain an affordable, diverse community.

DSA organizer Mauricio Maluff Masi recalls a conversation with a woman selling tamales outside St. Jerome Church who was harmed by landlord greed.

“She’s been living in Rogers Park for many years,” says Maluff Masi. “Every year, her landlord raised the rent by $100. Recently, she had to tell him she couldn’t do it, and he said ‘Well, it’s either that or you can move somewhere else.’ She actually had to find a new place.”

Landlords and property managers are seldom friendly to progressive organizing. The infamous “double buzzer” apartment style has kept out countless would-be canvassers. But Lift the Ban in particular has encountered resistance from landlords because it challenges their power over tenants.

Isabella Janusz, a DSA volunteer, relays how some tenants seemed hesitant to say anything that might get them in trouble.

“There was a sense of fear,” says Janusz of an apartment building canvassed by DSA. “But then one of the tenants invited us into her unit and, after listening to what we had to say about the Lift the Ban campaign, she really opened up and told us of the repairs in her unit that weren’t being addressed, the landlord evicting tenants, and a living situation that did not feel safe to her.”

Some landlords began canvassing themselves to spread misinformation about rent control, claiming it will not benefit renters in the long-term. But DSA volunteer Bumper Carroll met one Rogers Park citizen who knew firsthand how beneficial even meager rent control policies are.

“She expressed dismay at the gentrification that had driven prices up in Southern California and was grateful that she had enjoyed some protection in Los Angeles,” says Carroll. “She was surprised to learn about the ban in Illinois, her new home, and enthusiastically supported our efforts.”

Megan Hyska, a DSA organizer new to Rogers Park, was amazed by how many of her neighbors are in desperate need of affordable housing.

“We know folks are busy and talking to canvassers can seem like a pain,” says Hyska. “So I think it’s telling how many people wanted to talk to us about rent control. A couple older homeowners who have lived in Rogers Park 50 years invited me into their living room to tell me they worried the neighborhood would become too expensive for their neighbors to stay.”

DSA organizer Brian Bennett believes true socialism is necessary to secure housing for all. He supports Lift the Ban not because it will fix the housing crisis but because of the good it can do for people right now.

“We spoke to a man who had recently gotten off the streets and into an apartment,” says Bennett. “His landlord was raising the rent on him, putting his ability to stay there in danger. It struck me what an incredible feat it is for anyone to escape homelessness in our society, and how the land owning class could possibly destroy this feat for profit. He asked simply, ‘Rent control…Is that ‘less’?’  For some, ‘less’ means they can worry less about their budget; for others ‘less’ means survival.”