The Astor House is yet another affordable housing building on the North Side now lost to renovation. Like several other properties in the area, it is assumed by supporters and tenants that the new owner is BJB Properties. However, the building’s manager, Leon Martinez, promptly denied this when StreetWise visited his office downstairs. He refused to comment further.
A quick tour through Astor House and the studio and one-room apartments of protesters reveals burn marks, mold, and broken or cracked ceilings. Tenants said elevators break down weekly and heat and electricity are insufficient; there are mice, cockroaches and bed bugs.
Geoffrey Rowe, a current Astor House tenant, represents the situation of displacement for many lower-income people living in the North Side. Eight months ago he was forced out of the Norman when it too was sold and then renovated. Now he believes he’s going to have to move again after the remaining two months on his lease have ended.
“I don’t see why if I pay my rent I gotta move,” Rowe said. He thinks he’ll likely end up living on the West Side or South Side.
The Chateau Hotel, 3838 N. Broadway, has been another continuing saga of low-income tenants and activists fighting to remain in their homes. Most recently, according to Chateau resident and Lakeview Action Coalition leader Elizabeth Hartline, the remaining 68 tenants of the hotel have all received eviction notices.
Hartline had her first court date on March 27. Others were scheduled to have theirs throughout the first week of April. Because she was one of those who could get an attorney, Hartline believes she’ll be able to stay in the Chateau for another two to four months, giving her time to search for other affordable options.
Hartline suggests a solution to the loss of affordable housing in the North Side: “A good balance would be to fix the building, and then sit down with the tenants, sit down with your alderman, work out how to keep the building low-income or base it on income level.” This would “help the community: Keep it diverse. Keep it organized. And you’d still be helping the tenants.”
BJB Properties was also reputed to be the new owner of the Chateau Hotel. This, however, cannot be confirmed because the owner has not come forward and no permits have been filed. Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Ald. James Cappleman (46th ward) told StreetWise March 20 that the owner is 3838 Broadway, which the alderman did not know until the owner’s lawyer called to identify them.
The Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction group turned its attention to the South Side March 29 with a protest outside Metrobank at 1800 S. Halsted in support of residents of a foreclosed property at 1140 W. 18th St. Other groups joining them were Occupy El Barrio and Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO).
“PERRO stands in solidarity with those fighting against evictions and those fighting against gentrification in our community,” said Jerry Mead-Lucero of PERRO.
In prepared materials, tenants of the four-story 1880s red stone building said they were requesting a meeting with bank officials to get them to drop eviction proceedings. The nine residents of the six apartments also want the bank to work with them on repairs to plumbing, wiring and hot water so they could stay there at affordable rents.
Fancy Muzereus, who has lived at 1140 W. 18th St. for five months, said she was served with a 90-day eviction notice January 17 that will expire April 17. She said she paid $650 monthly rent until November, when the tenants went on rent strike because a property management company that took over for the bank had been unresponsive on repairs. She has been unable to find similarly affordable housing.
Mike Koz said he has paid rent but his checks have not been processed. In March Koz received an eviction notice saying he must be out in June.
According to Chicago.dailyherald.il-foreclosure.com, the 1140 W. 18th St. property went into foreclosure Feb. 8, 2011 and was sold as an REO to Metrobank June 18, 2012. It is listed on homes.com for $359,000.
StreetWise was prevented from entering the bank after the rally to seek comment, although an official later called with a phone number for Metrobank’s marketing and public relations department. Several calls to that number over a week’s time were not returned.
By Suzanne Hanney & Ethan Ross
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief & Editorial Intern