Chicago Homeowners Complain of Violence Hazards, Consider Leaving, Property Manager Says

August 18, 2020 Updated: August 18, 2020

Homeowners in Chicago’s downtown and upscale neighborhoods no longer feel safe in the city and are pondering moving out, a leader of a major Chicago real estate management firm says.

“The homeowners we represent do not feel safe,” said Steven Levy, president of Sudler, a firm that counts more than 100 condominium associations among its clients, including in lakeshore neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Gold Coast, and Edgewater. He spoke on behalf of over 22,000 homeowners and some 38,000 residents in an Aug. 12 letter to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“Much like you, one of my primary duties is to ensure the well-being of the residents I represent,” he said. “That responsibility has been made exponentially more difficult in recent months due to the lack of responsiveness and support from the City of Chicago.”

Chicago is experiencing a surge in violent crime, with murder and shootings up about 50 percent so far this year (data to Aug. 9) over last year (pdf).

While Chicago has long struggled with a high crime rate, the violence has mostly been concentrated in the West and South Side neighborhoods. Many of the downtown and North Side areas have traditionally experienced very little violent crime, allowing a sizable middle class and affluent population to maintain their urban lifestyle with a sense of security. Levy’s letter indicates that this perception is now fading.

“Residents across the city are adjusting their daily routines out of fear,” Levy said.

“They’re avoiding neighborhood walks after 6:00 pm. At night, they don’t stand too close to their windows or dare to enjoy their outdoor balconies or terraces. Their children, who will likely be homebound for the remainder of the year, are forced to play indoors because local parks and playgrounds have been inhabited with litter, vandalism, and crime. This is not a way to live, and I can’t fault homeowners when they tell me they’re considering leaving Chicago.”

Neither Levy, nor Lightfoot responded to request for comment, but on Aug. 14, the mayor announced a police-community initiative to prevent any more bouts of looting. The plan includes “rapid response deployments” of police to looting incidents (pdf). The city also formed a 250-cop unit specifically to respond to large gatherings such as protests.

On the other hand, the city recently disbanded its anti-gang and anti-gun units as well as teams formerly used to deploy to areas with frequent shootings.

The city budget, already laden with massive debt and torpedoed by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, could suffer yet another blow from resident flight, since the rich and the middle class, who are most able to pack up and leave, usually carry the lion’s share of the tax burden.

Levy said the safety issues affect his staff too, from property supervisors to doormen, janitors, and valet staff.

“Their abilities to do their jobs have been impeded by recent events,” he said.

“Staff have fearfully traveled through downtown in the middle of looting sprees just to report to their shifts on time. They’ve dragged dumpsters in front of doorways as additional blockades, rehearsed and implemented lockdown procedures, called 911 on repeat, and for some, have been face-to-face with criminals threatening violence. And in the aftermath, following hours of destruction, our staff have swept up broken glass in the early hours of the morning before responding to dozens of worried calls from residents.”

Levy called on Lightfoot to fulfill her “duty of ensuring the well-being of all Chicago residents.”

“Without an immediate change, I’m concerned that homeowners will flee,” he said. “Properties will stand vacant, businesses will fail, and the Chicago we both know will be a shell of what it once was and what it could be.”

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