South Side residents call for more thorough repairs to apartment building
The Chatham residents living in an apartment building with addresses 219 E. 79th St., and 7908 S. Prairie Ave., called for the city to inspect the building for structural issues days before the property owner is expected to appear in Cook County Circuit Court.
More than a month after JoLondon Jamerson and her neighbors went public about the conditions inside their South Side apartment building, she and others say they are still waiting for significant repairs to improve their living conditions.
While some repairs have been made in recent weeks, Jamerson, 57, said they are a “Band-Aid” to cover up structural issues such as painting over mold. She alleges that carpet was recently installed in the hallways without fixing the floor, and a ceiling in one hallway appeared to have a hole. Inside her apartment, what appeared to be mold was visible Tuesday near a window sill and putty had been placed around the floor of her bedroom.
“You can’t come in here in this community and think that you’re going to keep on getting rent from people and we are living like in a slum,” Jamerson said Tuesday during a news conference. “Not in Chatham, we won’t accept it.”
She and a handful of tenants called for the city to conduct an inspection of the property — which has addresses of 219 E. 79th St., and 7908 S. Prairie Ave. — to determine what structural issues need to be resolved. At least two tenants in the building are also facing evictions, according to the residents.
The push for a thorough inspection of the building comes days before the property owner, M4 Realty LLC, is expected to appear Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, according to court records. Eli Sieger previously told the Sun-Times that he purchased the property in 2021, but that he was not affiliated with M4 Realty.
In February, the city filed a complaint against the property owner, citing violations stemming from a May 3, 2021, inspection that found issues such as cracks in window sills, issues with light fixtures, mice infestation, a leaking toilet in one unit and no hot water in four units, according to the complaint. The city is seeking for a temporary or permanent injunction requiring the owner to make repairs to correct the violations.
In a statement, BSD Realty Group, which manages the property, said they have been making repairs to the building and are in weekly communication with residents. On Tuesday, two workers fixed the front door of the building.
The management company said some residents haven’t let workers into the units to do repairs while others won’t acknowledge the work that has been done.
“Additionally, BSD Realty has proactively performed audits and remedied any long overdue repairs in many units. Currently there is no major issue that has not been remedied,” the management company said in the statement, adding that they are upgrading the boiler system.
BSD Realty said they have offered tenants payment plans and waived some balances because of the coronavirus pandemic, but a handful of residents aren’t paying rent.
Carlos Banks said he is one of the residents facing eviction from the building. He showed reporters Tuesday how his toilet has issues flushing and turned on his shower to show the low water pressure.
Still, he wants to stay in the building because his children attend a school nearby and many of his relatives live in the neighborhood.
“I’m hoping the judge will vacate the eviction,” Banks said. “I’m going to make sure the building and the neighborhood are safe.”
Sam Clendenning, a community organizer with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, said the Chatham building is an example of how the city needs to conduct more inspections on apartment buildings, pointing out how the city didn’t start looking into the building until residents organized themselves and went public with their living conditions.
“If I walked into every building on 79th, I’m sure I could find more of these issues,” Clendenning said. “The city needs to have people out here inspecting buildings on a rolling basis for these issues of health such as mold, rodents other pests.”
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.