Coronavirus Chicago: Mayor Lightfoot announces housing pledge to help renters, homeowners affected by COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday the Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge, which aims to provide relief to renters and homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"Our modeling shows that renters are being hit up to 10 times harder than homeowners in part because half the jobs that have been at the highest risk of being lost during this time are low-paying jobs," said Chicago Department of Housing Commissioner Maria Novara.

The pledge calls for landlords to give rental payment grace periods, halt late fees for late or missed payments and create written repayment plans to allow renters who have missed payments to spread out repayment over time.

Housing lenders pledged to, on a case-by-case basis, establish grace period for mortgage payments, suspension of foreclosures, neutral reporting to credit agencies and not imposing late fees for missed payments. Mayor Lightfoot said many lenders were already working with customers on these types of measures.

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"It is a rare day when you see renter advocacy groups, building owners and lenders all standing on the same side of an issue, but that is literally what is happening right now," Mayor Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lightfoot also emphasized that those who can continue to make payments should continue to meet their obligations.

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The agreement includes multi-family apartment buildings and not just single-family homes.

Leon Bcchieri, executive director of Working Family Solidarity, said the pledge is a step in the right direction but still has some concerns.

"Some people are telling us, what do I do in the event that my landlord and building manager disregards that, and forcefully and aggressively attempts to evict me?" he said.

Numerous community groups are calling for rent and mortgage payments to be cancelled during this crisis. Lightfoot said that is not going to happen.

"We don't believe there is any sort of way that we can administer a program where people have to prove that they can't pay rent," said Michael Robin, Autonomous Tenants Union. "We are already seeing tenants being harassed, harangued by their landlords to try to prove their circumstances."

"Just because we are in this pandemic doesn't mean people can just forego any effort to pay rent or mortgage," Lightfoot said. "We just can't do that. We all have obligations to each other and must endeavor, even in this difficult time, as best we can to meet those obligations."

Organizations that have signed the pledge include:

-Bank of America

-BMO Harris Bank

-Byline Bank

- CIBC

- Fifth Third Bank

-First Eagle Bank

-First Midwest Bank

- Northern Trust Bank

-PNC
-US Bank

-Wintrust Bank

-Second Federal Credit Union

-Seaway Credit Union

-Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH)

-Chicagoland Apartment Association (CAA)

- Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance (NBOA)

-Chicago Association of REALTORS (CAR)
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