Located at 1246 W. Pratt Blvd., the Astor House is affordable housing in the Rogers Park neighborhood. The building was recently sold to 1246 Pratt LLC, which immediately began eviction proceedings. Pfeiffer rents a one-room apartment with a bathroom but no kitchen. Shortly after the previous building manager sold the building to 1246 Pratt LLC, he stopped getting heat in his apartment. There is no water pressure in his tub. The elevators stop working two or three times a week. Bedbugs are a serious problem.
But his apartment is all Pfeiffer can afford. After paying his rent, he has $100 a month to live on, and his rent is the lowest in the neighborhood. “You’re pushing out people who are making do with what they have,” Pfeiffer said. “What makes me stand up is that I’ve met good people here.”
Arbie Boyman, another Astor House resident, tearfully recounted the problems her 8-year-old daughter faces: extreme asthma, trauma from waking up covered in bedbugs on multiple occasions, and most recently, a heart condition. Boyman said that on top of paying higher rent, finding other housing requires money to move, money for a security deposit, a credit history and a housing history that doesn’t include living in the Astor House.
“This ain’t the best place in the world, but some people, this is what they call home!” Boyman said. “If we don’t help each other, who’s going to do it? It takes more than one to make a community.”
And that’s how Boyman and Pfeiffer describe the Astor House. They call it a community of people trying to get by. Boyman regularly checks in on the elderly who live in the building, trying to ensure that they live as comfortably as possible in the deteriorating building. Other residents babysit her daughter.
Pfeiffer started a coalition to try to save not only his building but others in the area that are closing or being rehabbed to require higher rent. He is trying to bring together low-income residents around the city to fight for their rights to housing. The Astor House is not the first of these affordable options to go.
By Ellen Garrison
StreetWise Editorial Intern