Thank You to MTO supporters and volunteers on #Giving Tuesday

Thanks to everyone who shared their time, energy, and dollars with MTO for #Giving Tuesday. Your gift is an investment in the positive change our communities want and deserve.

A Generous Anonymous Donor will match total gifts for MTO from TODAY until MONDAY!

 We are half-way to our #GT goal of $5,000. No gift is too small for housing justice, as we press on in our efforts to secure safe housing for the thousands of renters assisted by MTO. All proceeds support MTO’s Tenant Stabilization Programs, which work to prevent homelessness by securing the tenancy of low-income renters. You can make a world of difference through our tenant stabilization. 

Click here to donate

Last year, with the support of donors and volunteers, MTO served over 15,000 low-income households through direct service, community organizing, and policy change. And that work continued in 2019.

Early this year MTO worked with Demetrius Stewart, whom like many tenants had insufficient heat during a harsh Chicago winter. Demetrius reached out to MTO to better understand his rights so he could take action to secure a habitable unit. And it paid off. With your support, we can help more renters like Demetrius stay warm this winter.


Click HERE for Demetrius’ story on CBS News

Eviction Prevention Program keeps Chicago senior housed

Out of Chicago’s 77 community areas, Auburn Gresham (highlighted in the map above) sees the 4th highest rate of evictions. (source: eviction.lcbh.org)

Ms. Daniels had lived in a modest Auburn Gresham apartment building for over two years. And things had been going relatively smoothly for the retired senior. That all changed one day when Ms. Daniels came home from the Doctor’s office to find frost on the inside of her windows. Her heat was not working. She talked to her neighbors, who reported they too had no heat. She called her landlord, who never even showed up. Ms. Daniels didn’t want to cause problems, but she really needed her heat turned on. She is diabetic and was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, so the lack of heat was complicating her health. 

Ms. Daniels called 311 to report her lack of heat, among other problems, like a leaking roof and holes in the exterior walls. Instead of sending someone to fix the problems, her landlord showed up and told her and her neighbors that they had to pay more rent or leave. They asked why, and the landlord told them if they want repairs they would have to pay up. This type of retaliation is harmful and immoral, but all too common for tenants who call MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline. And that’s just what Ms. Daniels did when her landlord started refusing to accept her rent checks.

After calling and speaking with a Hotline Counselor, Ms. Daniels was connected with MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist (EPS). Because Ms. Daniels’ landlord had already filed an eviction against her, the EPS knew time was of the essence, and knew that while Ms. Davis had a “good case”, it could be very difficult for her to win it on her own. She would need an attorney. With this in mind, the EPS fast-tracked Ms. Daniels case to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). MTO and LCBH have formed a partnership to combat the eviction crisis, deploying a new joint intake form and streamlining the referral process. LCBH swiftly accepted Ms. Daniels case, and represented Ms. Davis in court, not only winning the case, but also sealing the public record. 

Today, Ms. Daniels is safe and recovering in a warm apartment – without the stain of eviction on her record – thanks to fast action and an Eviction Prevention partnership that works to address evictions proactively at their earliest point. Evictions are a scourge to our communities, deepening poverty and segregation, and must be addressed head on if we want to bring justice to Chicago’s working class communities and begin to solve the housing crisis that affects so many of Chicago’s families. 

If you or anyone you know is facing the threat of eviction, please call MTO at 773-292-4988.

After Protest, Housing Commissioner Commits New Task Force to work with ‘Our Home, Chicago’ legislation

Demonstrators outside of “Eight Eleven Uptown” on Thursday afternoon.

MTO and its allies in the Our Homes Chicago coalition, protested Thursday outside of 811 W Montrose, the site of a luxury development in Uptown that received $16 million in public TIF money despite opting out of the city’s affordable housing requirements. According to the Coalition, Alderman Cappleman received $36,000 in campaign donations from the developer, JDL, in exchange for arranging the TIF handout. It’s this pay-to-play culture of corruption that is driving the housing crisis in Chicago, causing massive increases in rent and property taxes, gentrification, and displacement. The Our Homes Chicago ordinances are a package of transformative affordable housing laws that would create inclusive, equitable development and the integration of affordable housing into all 50 wards.

City Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara committed Thursday that the City’s new Task Force to reform the Affordable Requirements Ordinance will consider the CHI Coalition’s Our Homes, Chicago Legislation.  25 Aldermen have urged the Mayor’s Task Force to take the Development for All Ordinance as the Task Force’s official starting point for reforming the ARO. We look forward to participating.

LISTEN TO WBEZ COVERAGE:  

To Solve The Housing Crisis, We Must See Evictions As a Moral Issue.

After 15 years of living in what could legally be considered a storage unit, Mr. Piper was served a 30-day notice telling him to get out his unit or go to court and face eviction. While most of us would not consider living in a storage unit, Mr. Piper, a Vietnam Veteran and victim of Agent Orange, did so happily for the last 15 years. He did this not only because he lives with a disability and it was the only thing he could afford on his monthly fixed income, but also because it allowed him to live in the neighborhood he wanted to live in, Hyde Park, Chicago. 

Mr. Piper reported that his management company has changed hands five to six times over the last 15 years, and while conditions never improved, none of the other companies tried to put him on the streets. When he reported a bed bug problem to the latest landlord, two weeks later he received a letter terminating his tenancy. The letter stated that it was unsafe for him to continue living there, as it was not a legal unit.

Is this what the housing crisis in Chicago has come to? Where low-income tenants live in substandard housing, with an insect infestation, and without proper plumbing just to have a roof over their heads? Most of the renters calling MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline are fighting to keep their homes in neighborhoods where the rent is too high and/or repairs are going undone. Therefore, tenants make do with what they can afford, in a neighborhood they consider home.

While the management company did offer Mr. Piper a $1000 to be out in two weeks, he felt that it was not an honest or realistic offer, since they knew he had been there 15 years and that he lives with a disability. We also feel like the owners could have done more. Why not offer Mr. Piper another unit in the building, or more time to be out and relocation assistance? While we cannot fault them for closing what may be an illegal unit, we can fault them for retaliating by serving the notice only after Mr. Piper complained about bed bugs or for not looking for other ways to resolve the problem, not the least of which is creating affordable housing for all.

Landlord Calls ICE on Immigrant Couple for Requesting Deposit Back

Getting their security deposit back was supposed to be a simple task. All they needed to do is tell their old landlord where to send the check. But for this immigrant couple, a routine housing transaction soon became a life-changing nightmare.

The northwest-side couple had just moved from their apartment, leaving it clean and tidy, and requested that their landlord return their security deposit. Instead of doing what is right, the landlord became irate and refused to return their money. The landlord even threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the husband, an undocumented immigrant.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “No Human Is Illegal” during a protest in Chicago against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Much to their shock and horror, he followed through on his threat. ICE came out and arrested the husband, who has been in their custody ever since. Now, a Chicago woman stands to lose much more than her security deposit. “This isn’t the first time we’ve received calls from renters whose landlords are threatening to call ICE on them”, said Javier Ruiz, a Hotline Counselor at MTO. This type of blatant, racist retaliation cannot and should not be tolerated in Chicago, a town that takes pride in its reputation as a sanctuary city. In 2018, A federal judge sided with Chicago, ruling that Trump does not have the authority to withhold federal funding just because it is a sanctuary city.

Today, we must resist policies like HUD’s proposed new rule that would prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance. We must strengthen protections for undocumented Chicagoans. No human is “illegal”; landlords cannot be allowed to uproot families by reporting them to ICE! We must do all we can to ensure that no one is denied housing, public services, or resources based on their immigration status.

Tenants March on HUD HQ, Win Meeting with Top HUD Official

May 10th 2019

Mrs Johnson, a resident at
Barbara Jean Wright Courts, speaks about the living conditions at the complex.

Chicago, IL. – Twenty-five tenants and their supporters picketed outside the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices at 77 W Jackson in downtown Chicago today.  The tenants were sick and tired of inaction on the part of their landlords and the lack of oversight by HUD. One tenant asked, “How can I celebrate Mother’s Day in my home when my kitchen cabinets are falling apart?”  

It was almost a year ago today that HUD representatives met with tenants at a Town Hall meeting of subsidized renters organized by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO).  At the Town Hall, HUD representatives promised action. They assured tenants they would come out to the buildings and hold the landlords accountable to very basic housing standards.  

For the tenants living in Barbara Jean Wright Courts, Germano Millgate and Indian Trails Apartments, HUD has not made good on its promise.  Tenants are living with rats, bed bugs, holes in the walls, elevators that don’t work, plumbing problems and more. One parent, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, is worried that DCFS is going to take her children away because the conditions are so bad.

Tenants were preparing to deliver a letter to HUD officials demanding a meeting. As the tenants chanted, “HUD don’t delay, Repairs in time for Mother’s Day!” outside of HUD’s downtown office, Joseph Galvan, HUD’s Regional Administrator for Region V, came out to talk.  Jesse Johnson of Barbara Jean Wright Court asked Mr. Galvan to meet with the tenants and to inspect the complexes.  Mr. Galvan agreed to inspect the above three apartment complexes and to meet with the tenants in his office on May 31st.  The tenants left feeling fired up and ready to keep the pressure on HUD and their landlords to provide decent and safe housing.

Joseph Galvin (left), HUD Regional Adminstrator, talks with HUD tenants outside his office on May 10, 2019.

MTO’s Black History Month hero: David Wilson

February is Black History Month, a time to remember and celebrate the people and the history of the African diaspora, and we’re honoring staff member David Wilson as MTO’s Black History Month hero.  The following short story is part of what makes David and his work so special. 

Mr. Roberts inside his unlit apartment.

I don’t know what I am going to do but the property manager is over here threatening to change the locks and lock Mr. Roberts in. There’s no heat, or water, and the lights have been turned out!”. It was 4:30PM on February 11. David called the office to relay what was happening inside Mr. Roberts apartment at 7907 S Laflin. “They’re threatening to arrest anyone who enters the building to help him. I am not going to let the property manager do this” he said. For years the previous owners had allowed the building to slowly deteriorate. The current owner just wanted to vacate the building and force the tenants to move, so they quit doing repairs, turned off the water and heat, and threatened the tenants with invalid eviction notices. But the tenants fought to preserve their home against the unjust eviction. 

David and Victoria Ogunsanya, an attorney from the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, were at the building because the tenants had just negotiated a cash settlement to move-out. Mr. Roberts, a 70-year old black man who uses a wheelchair, was the last remaining tenant. For many like Mr. Roberts, this building was home.  One tenant had lived there for 28 years.  Mr. Roberts had lived in the building for more than 10 years.  He lived on the second floor, which was not the best situation because he always needed assistance to go out.  Even though the conditions were horrendous by the end, Mr. Roberts was more terrified of ending up in a shelter.  This place was his home; he could afford the rent.  And now his property manager was threatening to put him on the street. David didn’t budge. He let the manager know that there was no way Mr. Roberts was going to be left alone in the cold, dark building.  With the joint effort of MTO and other tenants, we were able to find him a place to go.  In the end, with the help of six strong people, Mr. Roberts was moved to a new temporary home.

David Wilson

When asked about the incident, David said, “It’s really horrible how heartless and uncaring the manager and the owners were.  I kept thinking ‘is this how you would want your mom or dad treated?’” Unfortunately, there are too many landlords like this. “Its why tenants need to organize and why Chicago needs better laws”, he said.

David has been with MTO for over 19 years as a tenant leader, Board member and now as a community organizer.  Every day David brings his fearless determination and compassion to his job. And Chicago’s low-income renters are better off for it.