Jesse Jackson tours Far South Side apartments after residents raise concerns about mold, water issues

Residents of the Concordia Place Apartments are calling for the federally subsidized housing complex to be gutted to improve living conditions.

SHARE Jesse Jackson tours Far South Side apartments after residents raise concerns about mold, water issues
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Tamara Jackson shows the growth of mold in different areas of the apartment which she has reported to the owners but has only been painted over to cover the mold at Concordia Place Apartments where residents have been complaining about lack of support from the owners for basic utilities and repairs in Eden Green, Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Three months after Tamara Jackson’s Far South Side apartment was painted, black spots could be seen on the top of her walls in her bathroom and bedrooms.

“I’m not wiping it anymore,” Jackson said about what she believes is mold. “This is what we got to live with.”

Jackson, 43, has lived in the apartment for six years with her children who range in ages from 11 to 17. She was among a group of residents who are calling for a gut job of the Concordia Place Apartments after months of dealing with mold and water leakage and a host of other issues.

The residents Tuesday afternoon took the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other members of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a Chicago-based civil rights group, on a tour of the complex. Located at 13037 S. Daniel Drive, the complex is in the Eden Green neighborhood, just west of the Bishop Ford Freeway.

Residents pay a portion of their income, usually about 30%, toward rent while the rest is federally subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Help is on the way, hope is alive,” Jesse Jackson told a group of residents who had gathered near a parking lot on his way into the apartments. It was one of the first public appearances he has made since he underwent surgery in January and then spent three weeks in rehab.

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets and speaks with residents at Concordia Place Apartments where residents have been complaining about lack of support from the owners for basic utilities and repairs in Eden Green, Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The federal housing agency, which has subsidized the property for 35 years, claims it only learned about the concerns Sunday through the Housing Resource Network. HUD said it requested additional information and is looking into the issues raised by the tenants.

“HUD’s priority is to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing for HUD-assisted residents,” the agency said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

Mika Stambaugh, a spokeswoman for Concordia Place Apartments, said managers have been in contact with the civil rights leader about the residents’ concerns.

“Any time a resident has a complaint, immediately the protocols and guidelines implemented by HUD to rectify the situation are followed,” Stambaugh said in an email. “I can assure you that every single issue will be addressed to ensure all residents are residing in a safe and healthy community.”

Stambaugh said maintenance requests are typically filled within 24 to 72 hours. Stambaugh said leaks have caused some of the mold issues. She said some of the repairs are outstanding because tenants aren’t home during the times of repairs.

She also said another ongoing issue, rodents, is being addressed; pest control usually happens twice a month.

In its last inspection in August 2018, the property received a 94 score, according to data from HUD. A score of 60 is considered passing.

Deborah Lewis, who has lived in the complex for about 20 years and is president of the tenants association, said problems with rodents escalated in February when garbage cans were removed, leading to a build up of trash outside. By Tuesday afternoon, garbage bins could be seen throughout the complex.

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Tenant President at Concordia Place Apartments Deborah Lewis speaks about the ongoing issues that the tenants face at the apartments where residents have been complaining about lack of support from the owners for basic utilities and repairs in Eden Green, Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lewis said residents have also been dealing with water that smells like sewage and mold in their units. Other issues residents are concerned about include not being able to use the laundry facility, while others say their vehicles have been wrongly towed.

Lewis said she wanted to see all buildings in the complex gutted so it “could be right once again.”

Tamara Jackson said she has raised concerns about mold but that has lead the complex to paint over it — and eventually the mold returns. Her mother, who also lives in the same complex, recently had what appeared to be black sewage coming from her bathtub, she said.

“This property is very old and every surrounding property has been gutted but us,” Tamara Jackson said. “We can change managers, but we still are going to have the same ongoing problems with the infestation, the mold.”

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Tamara Jackson shows the growth of mold in different areas of the apartment which she has reported to the owners but has only been painted over to cover the mold at Concordia Place Apartments where residents have been complaining about lack of support from the owners for basic utilities and repairs in Eden Green, Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Beyond the conditions of the property, residents and the coalition say the community needs more resources. Cameron Barnes, the national youth director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, grew up in the area and said the community doesn’t have access to a grocery store or other businesses.

When asked who has gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, less than a handful of residents raised their hands.

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson walks the grounds to visit different apartments at Concordia Place Apartments where residents have been complaining about lack of support from the owners for basic utilities and repairs in Eden Green, Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Tavis Grant, the national field director for the coalition, urged the residents to stick together and told them not to be intimidated to speak out.

“In a pandemic, this is unacceptable,” Grant said. “We will not take it. You deserve better, you’re going to get better. We are going to fight for it.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the address of Concordia Place Apartments.

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