Chicago renters' frustration rises amid growing unemployment from coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Steven Everett enjoys spending time with his fiancée in their Chatham apartment, but now he's concerned about being evicted.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people like me aren't going to be able to pay rent tomorrow and we could possibly be facing eviction," said Everett, a Chicagoan who attended a rent rally and caravan at Daley Plaza Thursday.

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Everett, like so many others, no longer is working right now. He drives for Uber and Lyft, so social distancing is impossible, and his fiancée has diabetes.

"Taking in 20 to 30 passengers a day puts me at high-risk and puts her at even a higher risk," he said.

Everett was one of several people who attended the downtown rally. Organizers erected tents at Daley Plaza, calling it Pritzkerville. They say Governor JB Pritzker should lift the 1997 state ban on rent control.

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"We're calling on Governor Pritzker to make sure he uses his emergency powers to lift the ban on rent control and provide those rent and mortgage holidays," said Rod Wilson, executive director of Lugenia Burns Hope Center.

The governor was asked about the issue during his daily COVID-19 briefing.

"I would like to see changes made, but it is something the legislature needs to do," he responded.

When it comes to rent, there are also concerns for landlords and whether legislation on any level is the answer.

"I think people can have conversations. I think real estate is all about relationships," said Julie Harron, who is on the board of director for the Chicago Association of Realtors. "I think tenants and landlords can work these things out themselves."

Back at the rally, there were looming concerns the government will repeat the past, specifically how lawmakers handled the housing crisis in 2007.

They "were in solidarity with the banks and the lenders but not the people, and tens of thousand of people lost their homes," said Ryan Spangler, a social worker who attended the rally.

When asked about rent controls, Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged the housing crisis as well, adding that local governments do not have tools like the federal government.

"The crisis that I fear, not only around rent but on mortgages and potentially foreclosures, that is something that has to be addressed at the federal level," she said.

As for Steven Everett and his fiancée, they just want to work and, ultimately, stay in their Chatham home.

"I can't bring COVID virus back to her because she has underlying conditions," Everett said. "So that means if I can't work, I can't pay rent."
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