Tenants protest

“We have to let these tenants know … it’s not [the landlords] with the power, it’s us. It’s not them that makes the decisions, it’s us,” says MacProperites’ tenant Faye Porter as she and a group of about 25 people rallying for a rent strike march west on East Hyde Park Boulevard as they head to TLC and MacProperties’s offices in Hyde Park, Friday, May 1, 2020

On May Day, Hyde Park tenants and organizers protested against TLC Management and Mac Properties, continuing their efforts to get landlords and politicians to cancel rent during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Residents organizing with Tenants United Hyde Park/Woodlawn, a neighborhood tenants’ rights group, have been on rent strike against the company since the beginning of April. There are about 57 people signed on to participate in the rent strike for May, according to Tenants United organizer Zak Witus. TLC tenants are also planning a rent strike for May. Both groups have issued a letter of demands to their respective property management companies. 

On April 30, the Herald reported that both TLC and Mac have filed eviction lawsuits against tenants living in their buildings, though only the former has done so against tenants for not paying rent in April. 

Friday’s Tenants United protest began in the afternoon, at the northwest corner of Harold Washington Park. (Earlier in the day, Tenants United held a protest in South Shore against Pangea Real Estate.) Around 3:30 p.m., a little over 20 protesters — socially distancing, for the most part, while wearing masks and gloves — began walking west along 51st Street, stopping at several different TLC and Mac buildings. They turned south on Kenwood, walking a few blocks in the middle of the street until they reached the Mac Properties offices, 1364 E. 53rd St. The protest finished in Nichols Park. 

Along the way, different tenants spoke about their experiences renting from the two landlords. Faye Porter, who lives at 5120 S. Hyde Park Ave., said that in the time she’s lived in Hyde Park her rent has increased from $900 to $1,500 per month. During the winter, she said, her building gets so cold that she boils water on the stove to help heat up her apartment. Porter, who is allergic to wasps, also said that she deals with an annual wasp infestation outside her window.  

“When you go down to Mac Properties and ask them about it, they say they don’t want to talk,” she said. “Every year, my rent goes up by $50. What do I get? Nothing.” 

Theodore Bourget, an organizer with Mac Tenants United, has been living in a Mac Properties building for the past three years. He said that, in the first apartment he lived in, Mac did nothing to help after a radiator broke. “We were without heat in December in our apartment for the entire winter,” he said.

In his most recent apartment, Bourget said, there was a roach infestation. “We found a roach on day one in our new apartment. We’ve had a roach problem ever since we’ve moved in,” he said. “They said they were sorry, that they would fix it. I found dead roaches in our lobby two weeks ago. They haven’t done anything.”  

Earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the Housing Solidarity Pledge, a non-binding agreement that both TLC and Mac have signed on to. The pledge asks landlords to agree to a grace period for repayment, written repayment plans, and a waiver of late fees for renters who can prove they have been affected by the pandemic. Still, TLC has given no indication it will dismiss any of the eviction lawsuits it has filed against its tenants for not paying rent in April. 

There is also a legislative proposal to provide rent relief to some tenants. Put forward by 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin, it would provide renters with a 12-month grace period before they had to pay rent. It was referred to committee during last week’s virtual City Council meeting.  

Reporter

Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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