Chicago Tribune: Low-income south side housing neglected
Aug. 17, 2018
CHICAGO (AP) — Many low-income housing residents on Chicago's South Side are living in deteriorating buildings despite a charity's efforts to provide housing, according to a newspaper investigation.
The Chicago Tribune's investigation found that the Ohio-based Better Housing Foundation hasn't provided social services at its buildings and has regularly sued to evict those behind on rent. Nonprofit officials said they had the best of intentions, but disagreed on what went wrong.
Ohio attorney and nonprofit official Meredith Rosenbeck blamed Chicago lawyer and real estate investor L. Mark DeAngelis for many of the issues. But DeAngelis said he inherited dilapidated buildings and that his staff did what they could to fix problems while treating tenants fairly.
The Better Housing Foundation started buying dozens of buildings in 2016, borrowing tens of millions of dollars at lower interest rates and obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax breaks to finance the projects.
The Chicago Housing Authority has forbidden aid recipients from moving into 64 of the 81 Better Housing Foundation-owned buildings, because of problematic conditions, according to records.
City inspectors and tenants of a modernist high-rise near the South Shore Cultural Center documented pervasive rainwater leaks that led to mold, as well as frequent elevator breakdowns that stranded disabled residents at one of the nonprofit's biggest buildings.
Raquel McClendon is among the residents who have complained to the city about the water leak. She said the issue left her and her 11-year-old sloshing through stagnating water for days.
"I just don't trust them anymore," said McClendon, who moved out in May. "They're not doing anything to show any type of compassion for anyone."
The Illinois Finance Authority and Illinois Department of Revenue said that they're not responsible for monitoring how well the nonprofit cared for the buildings or treated tenants. But the revenue department took away tax breaks last month after the newspaper raised questions.
The Better Housing Foundation's board has voted to pursue transferring all of its buildings to a more established Florida nonprofit.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com