Last winter, tenants living in an 18 unit apartment building in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood found out the building they called home had a new owner. Shortly after they were informed of the new ownership, tenants received a letter with two options: either leave their unit in 30 days or re-apply to remain in the building. Most of the tenants had limited resources and were unable to move within thirty days. Most of the tenants took the option to re-apply as a genuine invitation to remain in their homes with no interruption to their lives. However, the so-called re-application process was only a disguise of goodwill when, in fact, the new owner’s plan was to remove all the tenants. The terms of the new rental application and rental agreement were designed so that none of the current residents could qualify. Frustrated and upset, and now threatened with eviction, the tenants contacted Centro Autonomo, a community based organization located in Albany Park for help. Centro Autonomo helped organize the tenants and they contacted LCBH to help form a tenants association. After much negotiation, the new owner responded to the formation of the tenants association and the threat of fighting the evictions in court and decided to negotiate with the tenants.
LCBH attorneys were able to negotiate a settlement where the tenants association’s members were granted a four-month extension on the termination notices. Rent was waived for half of the rent for three months and entirely for the final month. The settlement provided time and financial resources to these tenants in their search for new housing. The extensions also allowed their children the opportunity to finish out the school year at their current schools.
All too often in cases like this Albany Park building, LCBH is not able to preserve housing for tenants who are deeply affected by gentrification. This case highlights the current housing issues in Chicago, issues that LCBH hears about constantly. Because many renters, even long-term renters, live under month-to-month leases, there are no laws that protect these tenants from being uprooted from their homes if a developer wants to buy their property and increase rents beyond what is affordable.