Landlord Is Blocking Relocation Deal for Tenants Displaced by TOD Plan

Activists try to deliver a letter to landlord Francisco Macias. Photo: Lynda Lopez
Activists try to deliver a letter to landlord Francisco Macias. Photo: Lynda Lopez

Before ringing in the new year, at least thirty longtime Logan Square residents and affordable housing activists turned out for a rally near the California Blue Line station organized by the Autonomous Tenants Union and Somos Logan Square, calling on a local landlord to stop blocking a proposed relocation agreement that would help his low-income tenants, who are being forced out of his building by plans for a transit-oriented development, find new homes.

Landlord Francisco Macias owns the six-unit building at 2340 North California, which, along with a car wash, is slated to be demolished to make room for an upscale, 138-unit transit-oriented development by Savoy Development. The new building, located a short walk from the ‘L’ stop, would include 20 affordable units and, thanks to the city’s TOD ordinance, only 44 on-street parking spaces.

The market-rate studio apartments will rent for $1,200 a month while one-bedrooms will go for $1,400. Sayoy owner Enrico Plati has not disclosed the rents for the affordable units, but according to city guidelines, they must be affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the Chicago region’s area median income, or $43,440 for a family of four.

However, Macias hasn’t sold the existing building to Plati yet because of a conflict with his tenants, who were on month-to-month leases (which have been shown to make tenants more susceptible to evictions), and paying only $500 a month in rent. After Macias gave them 30-day notices to leave the building, in late September residents, supported by the activists, vowed to fight the evictions and stopped paying rent, arguing that they needed more time to find housing in the increasingly expensive rental market of Logan Square. After going to court over the issue, the building’s remaining three families were given until January 15 to move, but they say they need more time to find housing and financial assistance for the move.

After months of negotiation, the activists persuaded Plati to agree to the relocation agreement, which would give the families until March 1 to move, plus $2,500 per unit in financial assistance. It would also reimburse Macias for court costs, attorney fees, and the rent he wasn’t able to collect during the eviction process. However, Macias, has refused the deal because he claims the families still won’t move out in time and the sale of his property will fall through.

Natalie Ortiz speaks at the rally. Photo: Lynda Lopez
Natalie Ortiz speaks at the rally. Photo: Lynda Lopez

At Saturday’s rally, the tenants hoped to bring attention the ongoing negotiations and their struggle to find housing. The first to speak at the press conference was 12-year-old Natalie Ortiz, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years and is now facing eviction. With relatives by her side, she spoke about the difficulty of moving. “We are here today to ask Francisco Macias to give us more time to move,” she said. “It’s really hard to find affordable housing in Logan Square.” She added that their current apartment is close to her school, but leaving the neighborhood might force her to leave her school behind.

Natalie’s mother Glenda Ortiz elaborated on the challenges of finding housing her family can afford in Logan Square. “[It affects] not just me and my family, but others,” she said in Spanish. “It’s impossible to find affordable housing right now with security deposits too.”

After the press conference, the crowd walked southeast on Milwaukee Avenue to the supposed site of Macias’ home in an attempt to deliver a giant letter asking the landlord to give his residents until March 1 to move. “We have been trying to reach [Macias] for weeks, but he’s been evasive,” said Lilly Lerner, an organizer with the Autonomous Tenants Union. If Macias refuses, the letter states, will begin an ‘eviction blockade,’ a non-violent act of civil disobedience Chicagoans have used before to prevent evictions by the Cook County sheriff’s department.

When I contacted Macias, he reiterated that he doesn’t believe the tenants would follow through with the agreement to leave his building by the end of next month. He added that he believes the public hasn’t been sympathetic to his position as a landlord who has to pay property taxes but has been unable to collect rent for months. Plati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Regardless of whether Macias goes through with the relocation agreement, it’s encouraging that Plati is willing to adjust his timetable, compensate the tenants for moving costs, and reimburse the landlord for his expenses. Hopefully this will set a precedent for future projects, and we’ll see more TOD developers working with the community to help mitigate any potential negative affects of their plans. And hopefully this situation will help broaden the the conversation around TOD developments and affordable housing. Transit-friendly housing can be a great thing for all Chicago neighborhoods, but we need to move towards a model where new TODs are not seen as fueling the displacement of longtime residents.

Update 1/3/16 7:30 PM: DNAinfo is reporting that First Ward alderman Joe Moreno has threatened not to approve the required zoning change for the TOD unless Macias cooperates, which would effectively block the sale of the property. “By refusing to work with me on a resolution that would allow for a dignified and humane relocation of the tenants, [Macias] has chosen to pursue an opposite, heavy-handed tactic,” Moreno said in a statement to DNA. “By doing so, he has revealed himself to be a bad community partner, who may no longer merit the granted city zoning privileges that are enabling the sale of his property on his terms,” Moreno said.

Macias told DNA that whether or not the zoning change goes through, he would evict the tenants. He implied that if he can’t sell the building he will rehab the units in order to charge more rent because he can’t afford to keep charging sub-market rates.

 

  • morrano

    Your title and lean on this story are unfortunate, and I love most you write. You are blaming the landlord for blocking this when in reality his tenants are.

    For anybody keeping track, they have not paid rent for 5 months, or $2,500 each family (3) from the landlord while he still pays for his property, and are demanding two more months free rent, and another $2,500 relocation costs. Why the hell is the landlord on the hook for $6,000 per family because he wants to sell his property? And there are three families fighting this, so they want this guy to give out $18,000 while still paying taxes and utilities on the property. AFTER he rents to you for years for hundreds of dollars per month under market rate

    I have sympathy for this family, but demanding more good will from those who have already given it to you is insane, selfish, childish, and wrong. This man let you live in a property for years paying much below market rate, and you extort him when your easy ride is over? He owes you nothing, you owe him thanks.

    I am sorry that they are in this situation, but they have no right to live wherever they want. If I want to live in a nice neighborhood, I am expected to work hard and pay for it, not take advantage of others and expect something from them.

    Alderman Moreno, you are taking a foolish side on this. I get you want to look good for your voters, but you need to do whats right and stop screwing this land owner over

  • Pat

    I agree with your overall message, but it was my understanding that a lot of those cost you speak of would be paid by the developer:

    “After months of negotiation, the activists persuaded Plati to agree to the relocation agreement, which would give the families until March 1 to move, plus $2,500 per unit in financial assistance. It would also reimburse Macias for court costs, attorney fees, and the rent he wasn’t able to collect during the eviction process.”

    That being said, the residents have played this game for far too long and I don’t think they deserve anything more at this point. We all would like to pay rent far below market.

  • moreno

    I must have missed that part, but still these tenants are not owed anything and need to stop this.

  • aweg

    The last paragraph of the article seems to suggest that the landlord would not be able to rent the property at market rates in is current condition (hence the need for renovations). Renting sub-standard housing at sub-market rates in not a favor to the tenants.

    Moreover, housing security is a human right.

  • Pat

    The residents seem to be content with the current conditions of the units. Rehabbing units to bring them up to par or to bring in higher rents is common and I’m sure the three vacant ones have been neglected because of the planned sale.

    Housing security is a right, but that doesn’t just mean you get to choose what to pay wherever you want. The residents have been given ample notice to vacate.

  • Batboy

    Month-to-month lease…..does this concept only apply one way?

  • Pat

    Methinks if they had been on a long-term lease and the landlord gave them 6 months notice that he wouldn’t renew it, that they’d still be out there protesting.

  • Phillip

    Tenants didn’t refuse to pay rent. It was the landlord who refused to accept it. Once tenants are in court they legally can’t pay rent.

    https://www.facebook.com/weare.somos.LSQ/posts/1801716676754351

  • Phillip

    See above. Tenants didn’t refuse to pay rent. It was the landlord who refused to accept it. Once tenants are in court they legally can’t pay rent.

    https://www.facebook.com/weare.somos.LSQ/posts/1801716676754351

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’m not sure what the exact size or condition of the units is, but even if they’re fairly small, run-down multi-room apartments, $500 seems to be way below market rate for that location. So if the zoning change doesn’t go through, the landlord’s options may include not renovating the units and raising the rents up to market rate for their current condition, or rehabbing them and raising the rent to market rate for the fancier units.

    According to a Somos statement to DNA, Macias didn’t previously suggest the former course of action: “They were never given the options to… accept a rent increase.”

    In summary, Macias said he couldn’t afford the status quo, and while charging market rates for the units in their current condition might be an option, it sounds like he’s not considering doing that.

  • Jose

    No, he terminated the lease. That’s how a lease works. The tenants were on a month to month lease and they’ve been paying well below market value for years ($500).

    I took this from your own facebook page.

    – The landlord, Mr. Macias, wasn’t paid rent because he refused to
    accept it. He terminated leases and later began evictions. Tenants were
    never given the option to pay higher rents. Legally, tenants cannot pay
    rent during the eviction process.

  • mikecampbelly2k

    Housing security is NOT a human right. It is a Marxist code word that malcontents and irresponsible tenants use when they spend all their rent money on cigarettes and lottery tickets. Landlords are not financial advisors, substitute parents, or charities. They are a business and private property holders. If tenants stay illegally beyond their lease, they should be charged with tresspassing. Social service agencies should assist in finding housing not harassing landlords. Stop worshipping the irresponsible as heroes and start emphasizing personal responsibility.

  • Mace Dindu

    “Housing security is a human right”

    Great – how many can we move into your place?

  • neroden

    I think you may not understand how tenancy works. It’s possible to be a tenant without a lease. Under ancient English law, if you have become a tenant, you have the right to remain until evicted, which can only be done under *specific conditions*, which are usually specified in state or city law.

    It is incumbent upon the landlord to make a deal. Given that the *buyer* has *already* made a deal, the behavior of the selling landlord is… stupid.

    It’s no wonder the alderman is getting involved.

  • Jose

    What laws or city ordinances were broken by the landlord?

  • It’s my understanding that developer, Plati, conditioned the purchase on the building being vacant. Not vacant, no sale. So why would owner, Macias, agree to keep tenants on and reset the clock on possible evictions? (And, BTW once an owner accepts rent it would nullify an eviction claim.)

    Tenants negotiating with someone(s) (Plati and Moreno) who do not own the building makes no sense.

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