City Council hears from dozens of residents regarding rising rent prices at Prairie Knolls

By Blake Schnitker on July 10 at 7:53am

Dozens of residents from Prairie Knolls showed up to voice their concerns about increasing living rates at last night’s city council meeting.

While a handful spoke during the workshop session prior to the regular meeting, and were informed that there’s are little-to-no options the city has at their disposal to legitimately or legally assist them in their situation, around 20-plus additional residents showed up for public comment during the council meeting.

Two individuals leading the movement from the beginning have been Ron Hoffstadt and Gary Barrow, both of whom spoke at the final city council meeting in June. Hoffstadt informed the council last night that, while the situation was in a bad place at the last meeting, things have only gotten worse since. Hoffstadt explained to local aldermen that Time Out Communities, which owns Prairie Knolls, is changing the rent terms for the community starting on August 1st, when residents will be forced to choose between two different leasing options. Those two options include a month-to-month lease agreement or a two-year term lease.

The main subject of concern lies in the yearly increases to rent requirements at these homes. Under a two-year lease agreement, monthly rent for the first year would come out to $465 per month. The second year of that agreement, residents would see a ten percent increase, pushing monthly rent up to $511.50. According to these documents, the rent increases only get worse as the lease continues. Starting with the third year, Time Out Communities would impose a 25 percent increase from the previous year, pushing the rent payments to $639.38 per month in year three, then up to $799.23 for year four. With the 25 percent increases each year starting at year three, residents would be looking at monthly rents of $999.04 by the fifth year.

Among the suggestions put forth by Hoffstadt was for the city to implement rent control, while Barrow offered another suggestion: rent stabilization. And though City Attorney Dan Beard was not in attendance at last night’s meeting, Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard indicated to Hoffstadt, Barrow and the rest of the residents, that the city was prohibited by state statute from utilizing either of those options.

With such a strong community concern, the question becomes: what exactly can the city of Jacksonville do? Ezard stated during both the workshop and regular city council meeting that he himself, as well as the entire city council agree that they would continue to seek any ways they could to try and help.

As far as the ideas of rent control or rent stabilization, Ezard explains how the city is bound by certain state laws.

Also at last night’s meeting, aldermen approved a grant application to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for an In-Lake Sediment Dam project for Lake Mauvaisterre.