[Hpn] Why it's hard to rent a place;Daily Herald;Suburban Chicago, Illinois;7/2/01
Morgan W. Brown
Mon, 02 Jul 2001 13:10:54 -0400
Monday, July 02, 2001
[Suburban Chicago, Illinois]
Why it's hard to rent a place
By Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer
The number of apartments is not keeping pace with the growing population of
the suburbs, census figures show - a phenomenon that is likely to continue
driving up rents.
The 2000 statistics show a nearly across-the-board decline in rental
vacancies in Chicago's six-county metropolitan region from a decade ago.
The sharpest decreases are in the Western and Northwest suburbs. Rental
vacancy rates dropped from 7.9 percent to 4.8 percent in DuPage County and
from 8.7 percent to 4.8 percent in Cook County.
Some are calling the low vacancy rates crisis levels because they fall below
the 6 percent measure of a tight market set by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Development.
Housing experts attribute the low availability to a lack of new apartment
buildings and more units being converted into condominiums or being removed
from the government's subsidized list.
Finding a reasonably priced apartment is particularly difficult for senior
citizens and those who use subsidy vouchers.
Sandra Freeman, executive director of the Elgin Housing Authority, said the
waiting list for government-subsidized housing is 1,400 people deep
throughout the Kane County communities the organization serves.
At the Burnham Mill Apartments in Elgin, for instance, the wait for a
one-bedroom apartment ranges from six to nine months. Officials said the
wait can last almost a year for people who want a two-bedroom unit.
A waiting list already is growing for the 344-unit building currently being
developed in Villa Park in the converted Ovaltine factory. Loft-style
apartments there start at $900 a month.
The issue of finding a reasonably priced apartment affects moderate-income
families as well, said King Harris, a senior executive for Metropolis 2020
and a board member on the Metropolitan Planning Council. Both agencies are
examining the issue of housing in the suburbs.
Harris said a general rule of thumb is people shouldn't spend more than 30
percent of their income on housing. A single person making $20,000 a year,
then, could comfortably afford to pay $500 a month in rent. Someone making
$30,000 could pay about $750, he said.
"You can't find a place today at $500," Harris said. "And $750, even that's
If you're looking in Addison or West Dundee, it's even tougher because those
communities have vacancy rates of 1.4 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
In 1999, the latest year for which statistics are available, two-bedroom
apartments in the Chicago region ranged from $859 to $883, on average. But
many apartment complexes are exceeding those prices. A studio apartment at
Schaumburg's Walden Woods complex, for example, can cost about $800 a month.
In some areas monthly rents have been increasing more than the rate of
inflation. "The cost has gone up and is going up and is particularly severe
for people on limited income," said Samantha DeKoven, housing associate. "As
we found with the rental market unit analysis in 1999, the demand is clearly
for more rental housing units, but the market is not responding."
Harris said he is optimistic that the situation will change, but he said
more people need to become aware of and lobby for the issue, especially
Housing needs to be addressed now because demographers are predicting
another 1 million people will live in the region by 2020, he said. That will
mean the region will need at least 300,000 new apartments and houses, Harris
"From an economics standpoint, you really cannot build a new apartment
building today and rent it out," he said. "It's a very difficult problem.
Unless there is a government subsidy for development, economically it's too
difficult to build in this region."
Harris said land prices and opposition from homeowners whenever buildings
are proposed in their neighborhoods discourages developers. The issue needs
to be addressed because it crosses over into other aspects of life, Harris
"Others areas are affected such as nutrition, child care and clothing,"
Harris said. "These rates are really pushing people to their limits."
Freeman agrees the tight market is wearing on people when they can't find an
apartment they can afford. "They stay with family, friends, in homeless
shelters or on the streets," Freeman said.
The issue has affordable housing advocates still searching for answers to
build more rental units in their communities and incentives to keep
employees close to jobs.
Some say high rents could be driving people away. In Lake County, some say
people are crossing the border to Wisconsin to find an affordable place to
live. That's a trend that may also be having a ripple effect on traffic
"In the morning you can see streams of cars coming out of Wisconsin. That's
what's happening," said Mary Ellen Tamasy, executive director of the
Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County.
Agencies such as the Metropolitan Planning Council are trying to encourage
business to offer incentives for employees to stay close to home.
So far, System Sensor Inc. of St. Charles appears to be the model in that
area. Beginning last year, the fire extinguisher manufacturer has provided
22 employees, mostly assembly line workers, with $5,000 each in loans to buy
homes. The workers have to find a place within 15 miles of the plant. If
they stay with the company for five years, they don't have to repay it.
Those who leave the company before then have to repay the outstanding
The company has saved more than $100,000 in costs related to turnover,
recruitment and training, according to the planning council. To be eligible,
an employee's family income cannot be more than $52,500 a year for a family
Rent: Some prices climbing faster than rate of inflation
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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