Village Trustee Don Perille has been working with landlords, real estate professionals and an apartment renter to fine tune the proposed Multi-Unit Licensing Program since October of last year.
For those who aren't in the know, Skokie appears to be moving forward with an ordinance that would hold landlords accountable for their tenants.
If a renter commits a serious crime, the landlord might be forced to remove said tenant and his or her family from the unit, for example. If they don't comply, the village might fine the building owner. The Multi-Unit Licensing Program (MLP) would also hold landlords accountable if their buildings are not up to code or if they violate village ordinances.
There's also discussion of a $25 fee per unit for which the landlord would be responsible. That money would go toward hiring a public safety officer or more inspectors.
None of this is set in stone, and the village board will not vote on the MLP until after the April elections, Perille said during Tuesday's board meeting.
Since the MLP was introduced in April of last year, a number of changes have been made in large part to the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee, which is headed by trustee Perille. The group includes several landlords, a renter, a housing-rights leader and real estate professionals.
"Landlords want more inspections," Perille said. "Currently, inspections are happening every 18 to 24 months. Many of [the landlords on the committee] feel there should be more frequent inspection."
Perille added that the committee was also in consensus to require every multi-family home to have a sign posted with the owner's name and phone number.
"That would aid the police, the fire department," he said. "It would also aid the building department staff and enable someone who sees a problem in their neighborhood."
The committee also agreed that the MLP would include all rental property such as two flats, condos that are rented, single-family detached homes and townhomes.
About 155 single-family homes are rented in Skokie, and there are about 1,060 two-or four-unit apartments, according to Julie Naumiak, a member of the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee.
"There are people who don't want to sell their homes in this market, but have to take a job elsewhere, so they rent," Perille said. "This is a classic example of an absentee landlord."
A renter 'for' the MLP -
Elyn Sclair lives near the intersection of Church Street and Keating Avenue. She is the only renter on the committee.
"The area I live in is not one of the worst parts of Skokie, but it is not a good area in Skokie either," Sclair said. "I'm 100 percent for this ordinance; the owner I rent from is a slum lord. I keep hearing that the crime rate is going down, but if you ask me, our crime is going up.
"Some of the landlords are not educated enough," she added. "If $25 per unit is what it costs to keep rug rats out of the community, then I don't mind paying the additional $25."
Both Sclair and her mother were born and raised in Skokie, she said.
"I don't want to raise my daughter here because of what's happening in our community," she said. "Do you think I want to live here? No. But my mother lives here [and she needs my help.]"
Crime and multi-unit homes
Palatine and Schaumburg have already implemented programs similar to the one Skokie is trying to pass. Assistant Village Manager John Lockerby has said that 1,700 communities across the country, spanning 43 states, have similar programs in place.
Toby Roberts, the Neighborhood Services Field Director of Palatine, said its licensing program has worked well since its inception in 1990.
"This program is keeping the value of the property up," Roberts said. "Single family homes that are rented tend not to get the maintenance they need, so us being out there tends to help prevent the properties from becoming an eyesore."
In October of last year, Evanston rejected a proposal somewhat similar to the MLP.
Gail Schecter, Executive Director of the Interfaith Housing Center, also sits on the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee. She said the MLP is not the solution to reducing crime in Skokie.
"To mesh housing with crime is a recipe for danger," Schecter said on Tuesday. "One of the things that really struck me is with a Palatine officer [that I spoke to]. He said, 'all renters aren't criminals, but all criminals are renters.'
"We're criminalizing renters. I would caution the village of meshing village matters with policing matters. This could be a quick mess."
Editor's note: To view the Landlord-Resident Advisory's full report, click the PDF image above. The report includes other consensuses made among the committee that were not mentioned in this article.
Read our previous coverage:
- Skokie Closing in on Multi-Unit Licensing
- Opinion: Multi-Unit License Is Not the Solution
- Is Skokie’s Multi-Unit License a Double Edged Sword?
- Landlord: "Village Seems to Think I Should be the Police Department"