The Affordable Housing Preservation Project (AHPP) was contacted by the residents of this 5 unit building due to its extreme hazardous conditions. Upon entry of this property, its dilapidated conditions became apparent immediately.
As I stood beside a row of burglarized mailboxes in the foyer, leakage emanated from the gaping hole in the ceiling above me and dripped on my forehead. I stood in a puddle of collecting water and listened to the building’s faulty electrical wiring hum in my ears.
I wondered how many children and elderly lived in this deteriorating façade of a building. Before we accepted this case, one of the tenants informed me that this building consists of many dangerous and hazardous conditions.
These conditions included perpetual leaking and exposed pipes, rampant mold throughout the building, inconsistent water, no heat, and gaping holes in the walls of many units. But somehow such a description means very little until you enter the property and smell the mold yourself.
One must negotiate one’s descent down slippery deteriorating steps, and combat the dizziness and nausea that develop as a result of just two hours touring a building with rampant mold, before having any clear understanding whatsoever of the conditions under which many Chicago tenants are forced to survive.
As I move from apartment to apartment and interview the tenants of this property, I learn that many individuals moved in just months ago. Often thy paid their rent in cash after touring another building owned by Management described as a “comparable property.” Despite these substandard living conditions, property management continued to accept rent from low-income individuals and move tenants into this building, demanding an average of $500 for the monthly rental rate.
At the time of our building tour, a young woman just moved into the building with her infant child who suffers from Sickle Cell Anemia. She explained that she too was shown a building that was described as a “comparable property,” and paid her rent and security deposit in cash as a result of that tour.
When she moved into the unit, the manager told her that they would remove the paint strewn across the floors and fix the exposed outlets and broken windows. They explained that they would stop her ceiling from leaking and do something to plug the hole in the bathroom that allowed her to watch her next door neighbor bathe and brush their teeth.
In the coming weeks, despite her repeated phone calls and letters, she found that Management failed to deliver on their promises, and likely never intended to provide a safe living environment for her and her child.
Fierce with determination to make this awful situation workable for her and her daughter, she elected to purchase the tools and equipment required to make her apartment safe. So she went to a neighborhood hardware store and spent over a hundred dollars on these items. When she returned from work the next afternoon to commence this massive renovation project on her own, she found that due to the lack of security in the building, someone entered her unit and not only stole her tools, but all of her clothing and items for her baby.
This is but one story of many shared with us by tenants as we advocate for affordable housing in the city of Chicago. These tenants expect only a modicum of safety and fairness in exchange for their hard-earned rent payment.
In the weeks that followed this building visit, AHPP appeared on behalf of the tenants in the building and advocated for the vacating of the property as we felt strongly that this property was sadly beyond rehabilitation.
Consequently, we worked to secure over $8000 of relocation assistance for the tenants with whom the Project worked and we continue to advoca te for the return of the $300 move-in fees. AHPP worked with the City to coordinate the relocation of the tenants in the building.
Consequently, all the tenants with whom he AHPP worked directly have successfully relocated. In the proceeding months, the AHPP intends to maintain contact with the tenants in the building and hold training on landlord-tenant rights. We find that providing free legal education for tenants in the City allows us an opportunity provide the tenants with a basic understanding of the protections provided by Chicago’s Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance and their right to safe and affordable housing in this city.
-Keri Lindsay, AHPP Staff Attorney