Chicago seniors living in three affordable housing buildings sued their landlord Presbyterian Homes on Friday over its plan to sell the properties and force out residents next year.
Residents of the three subsidized-rent senior apartment buildings, operated by Evanston-based Presbyterian Homes, filed a class action lawsuit Friday in Cook County Circuit Court in an effort to prevent their “lifetime leases” at the properties from being broken.
Over 100 residents at the three independent living facilities on Chicago’s North Side — Crowder Place, Devon Place and Mulvey Place, which are known collectively as the Neighborhood Homes — were notified by Presbyterian Homes in mid-August that the buildings would be sold, reportedly to a market-rate developer, due to financial reasons and residents would have to move out by November 2016.
Presbyterian Homes, a faith-based, not-for-profit, also operates unsubsidized independent senior living facilities in the Chicago suburbs of Arlington Heights, Evanston and Lake Forest, which will remain intact.
Linda Armitage is one of six named plaintiffs in the suit. She lives at Crowder Place, located in Lakeview at 3801 N. Pine Grove Ave.
“I moved into Crowder Place seven months ago, and as I walked in the door, I was assured by Presbyterian Homes that this was the home for my lifetime, and I was so thrilled,” she said. “So you probably understand how stunned and angry I was just a matter of months later to receive letters stating I had to leave.”
“We, the residents of Neighborhood Homes, have been traumatized by the thought of being uprooted from our homes and communities,” Armitage added. “It’s too much to handle. And none of us can afford a market-rate apartment, and really we shouldn’t have to given the charitable and previous promises of Presbyterian Homes to us.”
The lawsuit alleges Presbyterian Homes’ plan to sell the buildings and force out the residents violates their “lifetime leases” as well as the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
“All of the residents of these buildings were promised that they could remain there, so long as they could live independently, pay the rent and comply with the other simple rules of the properties,” Matthew Piers, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said at a Friday morning press conference. “The residents charge in this lawsuit that, in deciding to kick them out, Presbyterian Homes is breaching its binding contractual obligations and engaging in deceptive business practices.”
The residents are seeking damages and injunctive relief to prevent their leases from being broken as well as the option for residents who have already moved out to return to the buildings under their prior leases. More than two dozen residents have moved out of the three facilities since it was announced in August that the buildings would be sold.
If the buildings are sold, the residents are demanding that they continue to be operated as subsidized senior housing.
Margaret Lilek, a 13-year resident at Crowder Place and a previous employee of Presbyterian Homes, said she doesn’t know where she will live if she loses her affordable apartment.
Presbyterian Homes “informed me that I would be able to live there for the rest of my life. Now they’re breaking that promise,” she said. “At 82-years-old, I have nowhere else to go. I’ve applied for 15 different places. They have wait lists three to five years.”
In an email, a Presbyterian Homes spokesman said the organization had not yet seen the lawsuit and provided no further comment.
Crowder Place is located in Ald. James Cappleman’s 46th Ward.
At Friday’s press conference, Cappleman said he and other elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9), met with Presbyterian Homes representatives and several “affordable buyers” Thursday night to discuss the organization’s plan for the properties.
“We talked about the need to make sure that an affordable buyer is in place,” Cappleman said. “They continue to want to sell it. We’re asking them to sell it to an affordable buyer.”
Presbyterian Homes is reportedly open to selling the buildings at market rate to a developer that would continue to operate them as subsidized senior housing, Cappleman said.
“I welcome all different options available, but … it is not negotiable to have any resident from Presbyterian Homes to have to leave,” the alderman stressed. “We cannot break up a family.”