KENWOOD — The owner of the Ellis Lakeview Apartments — under pressure from residents, the city and the federal government to make repairs — could face up to $800,000 in fines for failing to provide “safe and sanitary” living conditions at the Kenwood property, housing officials said.
Residents at Ellis Lakeview, an affordable housing tower at 4624 S. Ellis Ave., have for more than a year demanded owner Apex Chicago IL resolve plumbing issues, pest infestations and other issues.
Apex bought Ellis Lakeview for $10.75 million in August 2019, according to Chicago Cityscape. Under Apex and property manager Integra Affordable Management’s watch, the building has failed 26 city inspections and racked up 157 code violations.
“I’m at the point where I’m ready to move and don’t have a place” to relocate to, Ellis Lakeview resident Nadrea Satchell said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s just very unlivable.”
Apex and Integra face more than $800,000 in fines for allegedly violating the terms of their federal subsidies, according to documents obtained by Block Club.
Federal housing officials cited Apex and Integra in early 2021 for failing to provide “decent, safe and sanitary housing.”
In May, Department of Housing and Urban Development officials threatened the companies with up to $278,677 in fines. Inspections to that point found water issues, insects and rodents throughout the building, as well as health and safety hazards in three units.
Apex was aware of problems with Ellis Lakeview’s water system as early as November 2020, yet hot water pressure remained low through at least August, housing officials said.
“Morning chores such as washing breakfast dishes [and] taking a shower, or even doing regular chores, have become a really big task,” Ellis Lakeview resident Nadrea Satchell said Wednesday. “We have to boil water to even get a hot shower or to wash our dishes. This is something they’ve known about for quite some time now and they’ve never addressed the issue.”
A building manager wrote to a pest control company that the property was “covered in roaches, bed bugs and mice” in November 2020, yet the vermin “infestation” continued into April, officials said.
After nine months of unresolved water issues, and after another inspection found hazards in nine other apartments, Housing and Urban Development again threatened Apex with fines in October — this time totaling up to $523,666.
Housing and Urban Development has also cited Integra for mismanaging finances and tenant files. A review of 11 files “reflected such widespread error in compliance” that investigators required a review of every resident’s file for the 105-unit building.
Federal officials directed Apex to cancel Integra’s contract and bring on another property manager in March. It is unclear why that didn’t happen.
Spokespeople for Housing and Urban Development could not be reached for comment before press time.
Rep. Bobby Rush, state Sen. Robert Peters and Ald. Sophia King (4th) are among the elected officials who have supported tenants’ calls to replace Integra with an independent property manager.
Beyond the building repairs and calls to place the building into receivership, tenants are demanding Apex and Integra provide around-the-clock security at the complex.
The gate to the property’s parking lot has been broken for several months after a driver crashed into it, resident Arthur Evans said. He’d also like to see one or two more security officers hired, and for the landlords to build a dedicated office for the security team, he said.
The security situation is “like we’re staying in a home with all the doors open,” Evans said. “It should be way [more] secure in here.”
City attorneys filed a housing complaint against Apex March 26. A municipal court case regarding Ellis Lakeview is ongoing, with the next hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
In that case, Apex and Integra’s attorneys asked a Cook County judge to withdraw the court’s order for the companies to address issues at Ellis Lakeview.
The Oct. 12 order required bathtub, sewage systems, a wall, tiles and vent covers to be repaired in various apartments at Ellis Lakeview. It also required the companies to post contact information so tenants could reach out regarding repairs and other concerns about property management.
Residents didn’t properly raise their complaints, which led to the court order, so the order should be dismissed, attorney Shomshon Moskowitz wrote in a motion last month.
Moskowitz also asked the court to block tenants from complaining about living conditions at future court hearings, and to bar organizers who do not live in the building “from further involvement” in the hearings.
Moskowitz declined to answer whether Apex and Integra had completed the court-ordered repairs, nor whether the companies would boost security staffing at Ellis Lakeview.
Apex’s links to other troubled affordable housing properties raise red flags, tenants said. Court documents, tax filings and county-level records show ties between Ellis Lakeview’s owner and these entities:
- Housing nonprofit JPC Charities, which owns two Indianapolis apartment complexes through affiliate company Fox Lake AHF. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sued Fox Lake in July, alleging the company allowed the complexes “to fall into egregious disrepair, endangering the health and welfare of thousands of residents.” A judge denied the state’s request to appoint a receiver in September.
- Apex Colonial OH, the owner of the Colonial Village apartments in Columbus, Ohio. Colonial Village was declared a public nuisance in August by a judge who called the situation at the 508-unit complex “one of the most concerning public nuisance cases this court has seen,” according to the Columbus Dispatch.
- Apex Big Chateau AR, the owner of affordable apartments in Little Rock, Arkansas, that went months without gas and hot water during winter 2019-2020.
- The Better Housing Foundation, which was the subject of a 2018 Chicago Tribune investigation. The Tribune found living conditions at 64 of the foundation’s 81 Chicago properties were “so bad that the Chicago Housing Authority has forbidden its aid recipients” from living there. As tenants lived in squalor, foundation affiliates made millions of dollars in fees.
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