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Aldermen Back Temporary Halt To SRO Hotel Conversions, Demolitions


CHICAGO (CBS) -- Aldermen have given preliminary approval to a six-month moratorium on converting or demolishing any single-room occupancy hotel in Chicago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, for some low-income people, SRO hotels are about the only alternative, but many such hotels have been closing.

Now, the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate has recommended passage of an ordinance that would prohibit owners from tearing down SROs or converting them to condos for six months.

Deputy Planning Commissioner Lawrence Grisham said the moratorium is intended to give the city, building owners, and housing advocates more time to find a balance that will keep SROs open without hampering owners.

However, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said he's not sure SRO hotels are the best places for some people. He said they often house the mentally ill in less-than-adequate circumstances.

"With Uptown having the highest concentration of people living with mental illness, and with Cook County Jail housing the most people with mental illness in the United States, I have serious concerns about this SRO ordinance," he said.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) countered that the people who rely on SROs need somewhere to live, and if they need services to help them, that is a separate issue.

"If we need to provide wraparound services, or if there's mental health issues, we need to separate that from the building itself," he said.

The measure now goes to the full City Council for a possible vote next week.

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