Single Room Occupancy hotels provide some of the poorest people in our communities with housing. While this is hardly housing of choice, many residents of Chicago are very grateful the option exists. At least this is the case with residents of the New Jackson Hotel, a downtown SRO that houses mostly low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Recently, one of its residents contacted the MTO Hotline. He reported mice, mold, holes in walls and ceilings, and only sporadic access to heat. Chief among his concerns was the fact that the owner has stopped accepting rent, which signaled to him that the building was about to be shut down.
MTO sent an organizer out to help the tenants form a tenants association. MTO’s support empowered them to work together to take steps to save their housing. First, they persuaded the owner to begin receiving rent again, which gave them some security around keeping a roof over their heads. Hoping to build on that success, they sought to negotiate with him for better living conditions. At first the landlord refused to negotiate. Tenants contacted their Alderman and enlisted the support of Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, a non-profit developer of affordable housing. Working with MTO, the Alderman’s office and Interfaith, the tenants succeeded in bringing their landlord to the table to negotiate around building repairs.
The tenants’ demands are simple: A clear plan for the future of the building, repair of all conditions issues or appropriate reduction of rent, and the cessation of illegal evictions and lockouts.
After several months of contacting 311, working with lawyers, and focusing on the Alderman, the owner was forced to negotiate. He was stopped lockouts and evictions, and offered all tenants a relocation deal equal to 2,000 per tenant.