St. Edmund's Village Apartments, a South Side housing complex subsidized by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, is infested with bed bugs, rodents, and mold, according to one tenant and a group of housing activists who protested outside of the nonprofit’s board meeting in the Loop on Tuesday.
The building’s owner, Rev. Richard Tolliver, is a slumlord, the activists allege. He is president and CEO of St. Edmund’s Redevelopment Corporation, which purchased the complex in 1999. He was also appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve on the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund’s board of directors.
“The building is crawling with bed bugs, roaches, rats ... it has leaky windows, mold, busted pipes and the management is no good,” said Janet Wilson, 43, a resident at St. Edmund's for more than 13 years. “The mayor has a slumlord on his team.”
St. Edmund's Village Apartments, located at 6253 S. Michigan Ave. in the Washington Park neighborhood, houses 230 units. Wilson said several tenants, whose incomes cannot exceed 30 percent of the area median income, or $15,200 for one person, have demanded a meeting with Tolliver and called on him to improve their living conditions.
Wilson, a construction worker who has been unemployed since 2005, said she and other tenants have been complaining of deteriorating conditions at the building for more than two years. She claims the building’s management company, Gilead Management, LLC, is too slow to fix the problems and unresponsive to the tenants’ needs.
“(Tolliver) needs to come in here and do something to improve our living conditions — we shouldn’t have to live like this,” said Wilson, representing the only tenant from St. Edmund's Village Apartments at the small protest.
“I don’t think he even knows what’s going on in his building.”
Here's for more from Wilson and Tuesday's protest.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave the St. Edmund's Village Apartments an overwhelmingly good inspection score of 87 out of a possible 100 points.
But Haroon Garell, an organizer with the advocacy organization Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), claims the HUD inspection was flawed and not thorough enough.
“It’s supposed to be a random inspection, but it’s not. They know what they’re doing,” he said, alleging the inspection was contrived by the management team.
A document provided by Gilead Management claims all of the tenants’ grievances dating back to August 2012 have been addressed, including pest control and mold inspections. That document also alleges Tolliver hosted a tenant meeting in April 2013, but Wilson and other residents who had complained did not attend.
In an interview with Progress Illinois, Tolliver said that before he agrees to another meeting, tenants would first need to express their concerns to management — something he claims they have failed to do.
"The management company is there to manage the building," Tolliver said. "Protocol says the tenants should meet with management. I'm not a specialist on the issues, that’s why we have a management company."
Garrell responded by saying meetings with management have not yielded desirable results.
“We’ve met with management at least twice in the last year, and even a HUD representative came out, but we’re still facing the same issues,” Garrell said.
Nonetheless, Tolliver was quick to point out that, out of roughly 1,500 tenants, only one resident participated in Tuesday's protest.
“If there were egregious concerns and a large tenant outcry, I would certainly be concerned. But the issue is with one disgruntled tenant,” he said. “If any issues are there, that are probably common among any management situation, they are being addressed or have already been addressed."
Meanwhile, Garrell and other activists called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to better enforce the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO).
St. Edmund's Redevelopment Corporation has violated city law by failing to maintain the property, alleged Herman Bonner, of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants.
“We pay taxes, we support the (Low-Income Housing Trust Fund), but our money isn’t going to proper living conditions,” Bonner said. “The law states management and building owners should provide safe and decent living conditions, and right now Tolliver and his team aren’t doing that."
Rodent photo courtesy of Haroon Garell, which he says was taken in 2013