Protesting evictions in Chicago
CHICAGO--Around two dozen activists and supporters of Carol Vialdores--a mother of five who is currently facing eviction from her Chicago home--gathered May 3 for a press conference outside the Chicago offices of the Illinois Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The event was organized by members of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign to demand that HUD intervene on behalf of Vialdores and stop her from being evicted.
Vialdores has been raising her children in their Rogers Park apartment without any serious run-ins with management for the past 16 years. But this past month, Northpoint, the private company which manages her federally subsidized apartment complex, served her with an eviction notice.
Activists and residents charge that Northpoint has been targeting for eviction those who have been most vocal in criticizing the company for mismanagement of the complex. Vialdores has taken on a leadership role in attempting to organize a tenants' union and speaking out against the unsafe conditions in many of the units, including toxic black mold from water damage, cracked windows and broken security doors.
Northpoint is a subsidiary of AIMCO, which is the largest operator of apartment buildings in the country and has nearly $8 billion in assets. As an operator of Section 8 low-income housing, Northpoint receives fair market rates for their units, the cost of which is paid by a combination of a portion of the tenants' income and a federal subsidy from HUD.
With all this federal funding, Northpoint's criminal neglect of their units is not due to lack of resources. Residents who are trying to organize a union, beyond defending against unjust evictions, are demanding that HUD investigate Northpoint's mistreatment of tenants who have complained about the unsafe conditions, or who regularly submit work orders for repairs.
OVER THE past month, residents and allies have gathered hundreds of signatures from friends, neighbors and members of the community. Following the press conference, Vialdores and Anti-Eviction Campaign organizer Holly Krig went inside to deliver the petitions to Ed Hinsberger, the Chicago multifamily hub director for HUD.
Hinsberger met with the two and agreed to send a director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority to meet with AIMCO on May 4. If the case against Carol isn't dropped, she will face a court hearing on May 6.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an organizer with the Anti-Eviction Campaign, explained the rationale for putting pressure on HUD to intervene in the case:
HUD was established in 1965 to provide housing for the poor, to provide housing for low-income people. Instead of evicting people at a time when there is an eviction crisis happening around this city and around the country, they should be trying to figure out solutions to expand housing opportunities for people, to keep families together and to keep people in their homes.
The campaign hopes that HUD will intervene and apply pressure on Northpoint, as a major subsidizer of the company, to prevent them from evicting tenants who are attempting to hold the company accountable for maintenance issues on the property. As Taylor explained:
HUD should not be contributing to the problem by passively sitting by while private companies take these public tax dollars from subsidies and then evict tenants for no reason at all.
This is the second time in the past year that anti-eviction activists have come together in support of a resident of the Northpoint apartment complex facing eviction. A similar campaign last October resulted in HUD's intervening on behalf of Erica Bledsoe, allowing her to sign a new lease and remain in her apartment. Bledsoe has continued to be involved in organizing her fellow tenants, and was among those supporting Vialdores at Monday's press conference.
Organizer Frank Edwards expressed the frustration of many of those present at the event:
Honestly, we're all a little tired of having to come out here all the time to fight these evictions. We think it's about time that there was a system of accountability set in place so that people facing unjust evictions in our communities don't have to go through all of this just to get basic justice.
Until then, tenants at Northpoint, throughout the city and across the country will continue to fight against evictions and to demand that housing be recognized as a basic human right.
For more on Carol's case and other information relating to the ongoing fight against evictions in Chicago, visit the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign Web site.