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Tenants Protest Deferred Maintenance, Evictions at Building Near the Brown Line

Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez speaks at the rally. Tenant Eva Jaramillo is to her left. Photo: Lynda Lopez

Over the last few years, there has been an increasing backlash against upscale transit-oriented development in gentrifying neighborhoods like Logan Square, including protests and civil disobediences. The link between fair and adequate affordable housing and transportation access is clear.

But beyond considering how to make TOD more equitable, we need to continue to think about all the factors that are making it increasingly difficult for working-class Chicagoans and immigrants to live near transit. In addition to new high-end construction, substandard existing housing and evictions are part of the story that determines who gets to live within convenient walking distance of good public transportation.

On Monday, members of the Sunnyside Kedzie Tenants Union gathered outside their building, located two blocks south of the Kedzie Brown Line station at 3200 West Sunnyside, to speak out against alleged negligence by the building management, assaults on residents, and evictions. The Autonomous Tenants Union and local alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez joined the tenants at the rally to show their support.

According to the protesters, landlord George Triff has failed to make necessary repairs to maintain dignified living conditions and keep the units secure, which has resulted in break-ins, thefts, and an attempted rape. They say that after tenants asked Triff for maintenance and security upgrades, the landlord either ignored them or retaliated by evicting them.

Two tenants who have been part of organizing efforts were served with eviction notices and a third was verbally told they were being evicted, although all of them had been paying rent on time. Tenants are demanding that Triff negotiate with the residents, address their concerns, and stop the retaliatory eviction processes against tenants.

Eva Jaramillo, one of the residents served with an eviction notice in early May, talked the substandard conditions and dangers she has faced in the building, including lack of heat during the winter, and robberies and assaults. “There are daughters, families, women, and kids in this building and they are all under the stress of these conditions,” said Jaramillo during her testimony in Spanish.

“We know that since 2013, we have lost more than 5,000 Latinos in Albany Park and Latino families, and right now we need to respond to that,” Rodriguez Sanchez told the crowd. [Note: the statistic she was referring to is actually for the 33rd Ward, which includes parts of Albany Park and other nearby neighborhoods -- see more info in the update below.] “We are talking about families, about children who are living in these conditions in these buildings. These are people that work every day and pay their rent on time and deserve to have a roof over their heads that is dignified,” she said.

On June 12 Rosanna Sanchez’s office sent a letter to Triff’s office asking for him to negotiate with tenants.

In the background of this story of deferred maintenance and evictions is the fact that transit-friendly locations are becoming increasingly attractive to residents who want a convenient commute to work. There has been a pattern of lower-income and working class people being evicted from buildings near the Brown Line in Albany Park to make way for more affluent tenants who can pay higher rents. While we don't know the Sunnyside Kedzie building management's longterm strategy, one possibility is that the deferred management is due to plans to sell the property, or get rid of the existing tenants so that the units can be rehabbed for wealthier newcomers.

Update 7/3/19 12:20 PM: Former Rodriguez Sanchez campaign volunteer Jake Marshall provided the following clarification about the alderwoman's statement that Albany Park has lost 5,000 Latino residents since 2013: "The '5K fewer Latinx residents in Albany Park' stat comes from some research that the Rossana campaign did using census track data... So I guess one issue is that the stat is really about the 33rd Ward... not Albany Park itself -- sorry for any confusion."

Marshall added that the 33rd Ward data is approximate and passed along the following quote from a campaign researcher who asked not to be named. "One note about the data... Census tract boundaries do not directly align with the ward boundary. We selected the Census tracts that are completely inside the ward or mostly inside the ward.  As such, some small slivers of the ward may be left out while data from other wards are included in the total. Therefore these numbers do not precisely capture the ward (I don't think anyone can do that based on how Census tracts work), but they do capture what is happening in the census tracts that mostly constitute the ward. "

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