UPTOWN — Tenants of a large senior housing building in Uptown are alleging substandard and unsanitary living conditions in their apartments and common spaces, accusing management of negligence and poor treatment.
Speaking at a protest Saturday, tenants said the Ella Flagg Young apartment complex — a high-rise, senior building at 4645 N. Sheridan Road — is infested with rodents and cockroaches, experiences constant flooding in its units and exercise room, and has had broken washing machines for close to a year.
Residents said that building management has been dismissive of tenant concerns, forcing senior tenants to travel long distances to do laundry and leaving other building issues unresolved.
“Nobody should have to live like this,” one resident said.
The 222-unit, 20-story building dates to 1975 and is one of 43 senior properties operated by the Chicago Housing Authority.
Management of the property is subcontracted to nonprofit Hispanic Housing Development Co., which began managing the building in September 2021 after a public bidding process. The organization manages more than 260 buildings across the region, including more than 1,000 CHA units, according to its website.
The company has faced repeated criticism for the management of its buildings over the years, including on the Far North Side. It oversees a Rogers Park senior building where three women died during a May heatwave and management refused requests to turn on the building’s air conditioning. That controversy led to new city rules for cooling buildings.
A CHA employee was on-site Saturday, but declined to comment or respond to the concerns voiced by tenants, or questions from Block Club Chicago. In an emailed statement, CHA spokesman Matthew Aguilar said the CHA “takes resident feedback seriously.”
“While we are not aware of these specific concerns regarding Ella Flagg Young Apartments, we will look into it further,” Aguilar wrote.
At the protest Saturday, approximately 20 tenants, as well as supporters from across the city, gathered outside the building to protest living conditions. In October of 2021, they started organizing officially, forming a tenants union, and said that they have since been raising concerns about the building conditions, without seeing improvement.
Ed Balisong, who is 66 and has lived in the building for approximately four years, listed a litany of unresolved issues, saying they had been ignored by building management.
“This building has a terrible issue with flooding,” he said. “The laundry room is terrible. No washers and dryers are working. Roaches are taking over the counters. You can’t even fold clothes without roaches.”
“We want our building back. We are going to get our building back,” he told the crowd.
Other residents voiced similar complaints. Obrey Jones, 84, said he has been living in the building for 20 years. He said it took two years for management to fix cracks in his ceiling, and said many seniors like him struggle to bring their clothes to laundromats that are an approximately 10-minute walk. Tenant Linda Jackson said she initially couldn’t even move furniture into the building because her room was flooded, and added that she wanted security on building premises.
Like other CHA units, rent in the building is subsidized based upon tenant income. While the base price for a unit sits in the $900 range, according to tenants, most pay much less than that.
Tenants said that they liked the building’s neighborhood and location, which offers views of Lake Michigan. Most said that despite the issues with the building, they were too old to go through the challenging process of moving out, and had long-established ties to the area and community.
Jones said that he wanted to move, but couldn’t due to physical issues.
“I just had back surgery,” he said. “It’s just too much.”
While Jones and others said a large number of tenants were scared to speak out for fear of eviction, those present on Saturday made their wishes known, saying they would continue to organize and voice concerns until management improved living conditions in the building.
“As tenants, we have power, and authority,” Jackson said. “We have rights, and it’s important that we come together and defend our rights.”
Other controversies involving Hispanic Housing Development Corporation include a building for veterans in Humboldt Park. A 2019 Block Club investigation revealed it was littered with problems, with residents saying the building hurt the residents it intended to help.
Then last year, the nonprofit paid a $1.5 million fine in a class-action lawsuit for allegedly failing to provide tenants copies of the city’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, among other infractions, according to the Sun-Times.
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