With gentrification on the march, families fighting eviction in Pilsen

May 15, 2017

 

A coalition representing families facing eviction from an apartment building at 1722 W. 21st. St. held a news conference and protest on April 22. The families hope to stay in the building at least until the school year ends.

A spokesperson for a coalition representing six families facing eviction from an apartment building at 1722 W. 21st St., which Monroe Management is about to renovate, said he remains hopeful the group can work out a deal allowing those tenants to stay through the end of the school year.

“We have at least six or seven children living in the building,” said Byron Sigcho of the Pilsen Alliance. “We’re trying to reach a settlement” allowing the families to stay until school’s out. Two families in the eight-unit building slated for extensive re- pairs already have moved out, Sigcho said, noting the tenants’ rights advocates obtained a court continuance on April 13 until officials can assign a permanent judge to the case.

Sigcho said his group expects to be back in court sometime in early May and will ask for a jury trial on the advice of its lawyers. He has received “indications” Monroe Management wants to reach a settlement before the case goes to court.

Jeremy Reis, the management company’s attorney, did not return phone calls requesting comment.

The tenants had received 30-day eviction notices requiring them to vacate the building by the end of April, Sigcho said, adding that, while the evictions are frozen until a court hearing or until the parties reach a settlement, the tenants may need more time. “Some of the tenants say they could do it in 60 to 90 days, but not 30,” Sigcho said. “Some people couldn’t even pack in 30 days.”

Rents rising

To make matters even worse, rents in the neighborhood already have risen much higher than the $700 to $750 Sigcho estimates the 21st Street tenants are paying. Most area rents are nearly double that, with the area undergoing rapid gentrification, Sigcho said. Some tenants, such as Guiliermo Ramirez, face even more daunting challenges. Ramirez said he still deals with the effects of a stroke he suffered several months ago.

“I have been working hard to recover, just to find myself on the verge of eviction,” he said. Another tenant, Shelonda Montgomery, has been trying on her own to convince Monroe Management to give everyone a few more months so the children can finish school and tenants like herself can find other affordable housing. “But instead of listening, they have threatened to cut off the water by the end of the month,” Montgomery said.

Lorena Vargas, a Pilsen Alliance board member, accused management companies and landlords of becoming “more aggressive with their eviction processes, which is causing a housing crisis for working class, long-term residents. We are demanding legislation in City Hall and Springfield to stop these abuses.”

Among those joining the Pilsen Alliance at an April 12 news conference in front of the building were the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, Metropolitan Tenants Or- ganization, Autonomous Tenants Union, Kenwood/Oakland Community Organization, Lift the Ban Coalition, and Working Family Solidarity. Some were calling for even more than an extension for the 21st Street tenants. At this point, the groups said, they are focusing on three goals: rent control in Chicago, reasonable time to move, and eviction only for “just cause.”

“Just cause,” the advocates said, would include “destroying property” or “not paying rent.”

“There must be some justification for evicting people,” Sigcho said.

Original article (By Patrick Butler):

With gentrification on the march, families fighting eviction in Pilsen

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