Archer Ave. SRO tenants battle to save their home
April 7, 2017

The tenants of a single residence/room occupancy (SRO) facility at 3022 S. Archer Ave. continue to battle to remain in their apartments. In late March, the building management disconnected the water.

SROs provide affordable rental housing to low- and moderate-income tenants. Miguel Jimenez, foreclosure organizer of the pro-resident Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO), said he and others learned of the situation when checking in with the tenants. Now his organization is working to ensure management gets the heat working in the building, reconnects the water, and fixes the first and second floor showers, which had not been working.

“We think this could be one of the strategies by the management company,” Jimenez said. “They could be trying to force tenants to leave so they don’t have to pay the relocation fee to those who have been paying rent.”

Jimenez also said the MTO is trying to set up a meeting with JCF Real Estate, which is responsible for the building. JCF representatives were not available for comment. The tenants’ legal troubles started last year when the SRO’s previous owner announced plans to sell. The building went into foreclosure, and a court appointed JCF as receiver. In September, JCF tried to evict the tenants, but activists, the MTO, and the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) fought successfully to halt the evictions.

In 2014, Chicago passed the SRO Preservation Initiative, which ensures that affordable housing beyond public housing options continues to exist in the city. That initiative helped keep SRO management from evicting the tenants early on. Chicago receives an “intent to sell” notice when property owners try to sell an SRO. The City then forwards contact information to housing development businesses and organizations interested in preserving SRO properties, with a goal of preserving the variety of housing options offered in Chicago.

Jimenez said officials want to sell the building, but no new buyers have come forward. If the building does not sell, he hopes other options—such as landmark status, as the building was constructed in the 19th century—will ensure the building remains and the tenants have a home.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take” to get a buyer, Jimenez said. “We’re still hoping someone wants to buy it.”

Tenants worked with the MTO to reverse eviction notices for the last few months of 2016 and to preserve their housing while the former management, its bank, JCF, and the City worked to find a new buyer to preserve the SRO.

In December, “It was decided that, if tenants pay, they stay and that payment negotiations with the management company can be initiated by each individual tenant who may owe some back rent,” Jimenez said. “The bank has a few buyers who are interested, and hopefully one of them will want to preserve the SRO status and do rehab on the building.”

According to Jimenez, the Chicago Fire Department inspected the building and, although it passed, the building needs many repairs. The City is willing to help potential preservation buyers with financing.

Victoria Ogunsanya of the LCBH, which continues to work with the tenants, said she and her organization are in the monitoring stage, educating tenants on their rights under the City’s ordinances and communicating their concerns about the proceedings.

“We want the tenants to have a good outcome,” Ogunsanya said. “We want their tenancy to be preserved; that’s our goal. As the foreclosure wraps up, we’ll have a clearer idea of where the tenants stand.”

The MTO is located in the Near South area at 1727 S. Indiana Ave. Call (773) 292-4980. The LCBH is at 33 N. LaSalle Dr. Call (312) 347-7600.

— Rachel Hinton