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The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award

ONE Northside for the Chicago For All Campaign

Eric Young Smith

“This gives me a place to land on my feet.”

David Greenhow definitely needs his single room occupancy (SRO) hotel in Old Town – a “Gold Coast” address that likely would be converting to luxury condos were it not for a new city ordinance he helped to pass.

He’s one of hundreds of SRO residents alerted and organized by the Chicago For All Campaign, a successful effort led by ONE Northside to stem a rising tide of condo conversions. By working closely with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and sympathetic North Side aldermen, Chicago For All won passage in November 2014 an ordinance that will preserve and improve thousands of rooms...or in the alternative, compensate SRO residents forced to move.

The situation was dire. With its real estate market snapping back from the Great Recession the city had lost more than 2,100 SRO rooms since 2011. A spike in homelessness and swamped overnight shelters caused City Hall to invoke a moratorium on conversions until solutions could be found. ONE Northside took up the challenge, working with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to create Chicago For All.

They raised public awareness and helped craft the SRO Preservation Ordinance sponsored by aldermen Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th) and Ameya Pawar (47th). SRO owners looking to sell must give tenants six months to find a developer willing to buy the property for market value and operate it for existing tenants. If that fails and the building is sold to a converter, the seller must pay a $10,600 relocation fee to each tenant and $20,000 per unit to a city SRO Preservation Fund. These and other funds will be used to upgrade over 700 SRO rooms during the next five years.

Since passage, only one building has been lost to conversion. “Now everybody has a place,” said Greenhow. “Without it I don’t know that I’d be alive.”