North Riverside, seeing the switch of apartment buildings to condominiums throughout the Chicago area, is working on a new law to guide these changes to home ownership.
The law would give the village more control in how the apartments are changed, how the new homeowner associations are formed, and will generally help with conversion problems, said Mayor Richard Scheck.
The village has formed a committee of trustees Tom Corgiat, Randy Czajka and Gary Wittbrodt to examine other ordinances, from neighbors such as Riverside and the West Central Municipal Conference, to examine a new law.
“We’re not trying to recreate the wheel,” said Village Administrator Guy Belmonte. “The mayor wants to pass the ordinance by the end of the year.”
Scheck had reviewed a conversion ordinance a year ago, but postponed going further until a meeting a month ago.
With homeownership more appealing than renting due to low interest rates, rental property owners are turning apartment units into for-sale homes at a quick rate. In Chicago, for example, there are currently about 1,550 apartment units being turned into condos, according to Appraisal Research Counselors.
In North Riverside, developer Nick Kakolires bought two apartment buildings, at 2217 and 2221 Desplaines Ave., for $1.26 million, and has plans for conversion. He said condos will be the best use for the 12 units in the two 35-year-old buildings.
“The rental market isn’t doing well, and there seems to be a bigger interest in home ownership,” Kakolires said.
Numerous questions come up when converting an apartment, said Dave Skurkis, North Riverside’s building and health commissioner. Electrical, fire protection, parking and other requirements are different from renting to owning, he said.
“For example, we don’t want to allow a conversion if there’s not enough resident parking available,” Skurkis said.
Also, the village has been asked to step in on various disagreements when apartments are converted and a homeowner association is created, Skurkis said.
Nearby Riverside is further along in its conversion ordinance, which would ensure the rights of tenants and buyers during the conversion process. Among other things, the Riverside ordinance details exactly what developers must provide to the village to receive approval for a conversion project, when they must notify their tenants about the impending project, and it secures tenants the right of first purchase for their units.
A draft of this ordinance was first presented to the Riverside board in January, but it was sent back to village staff with a few requests for modifications. The vote was delayed in order to alert developers to the changes in the ordinance and allow them the chance to comment on it. In August, the Riverside village board finally adopted the ordinance, which focuses more on tenant’s rights than on zoning and building code enforcement.
Scheck said he wants to encourage North Riverside developers to build owner-occupied housing rather than rentals, and to come up with a set of rules to cover gaps in homeowner association bylaws.
“We need to make rules. We don’t have enough authority now,” said the mayor.
Kakolires said he would support new conversion rules, adding he had to attend numerous meetings with the village to get his plans across.
“An ordinance would give developers some idea of what they’re walking into from the start,” Kakolires said.
Scheck suggested a marketing plan that would help condo converters. Banks will be contacted for financial assistance packages, Scheck said.
“We have some people interested in doing some good developments,” Scheck said. “We want to offer assistance programs, and to provide more stability to the village.”