Humboldt Park Families Fight Back Against Displacement

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsTenants of the 2800 block of West Division, a building which has provided affordable housing to the Humboldt Park community for decades, are fighting back against the property’s owner recent decision to end his longstanding project-based Section 8 contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Amir Syed is ending the contract, which has subsidized the tenants’ rent for years, in order to convert the building into market-rate units. According to the tenants, Syed’s decision is “contributing to the rapid gentrification now taking place in Humboldt Park that is displacing low-income families of color who have called the neighborhood home for decades.

“The tenants of 2815 W Division refuse to quietly accept this cruel displacement of our families in the name of profit,” said Andriana Vera, one of the women representing the Tenant Association. “In his move to convert the building into market rate units, Mr. Syed has made it clear that he does not care about the well-being of the people who already live here–seniors, children, and working class families primarily of Puerto Rican heritage.” 

The property owner has also refused to make needed repairs to the building, requested by the tenants now residing there, and is refusing to make those repairs until he turns the building into market rate housing.  Under state law, tenants have the right to purchase the property where they reside if the property owner discontinues the contract with the government that made the housing accessible and affordable for residents in the first place. 

“The 2815 W Division Tenant Association is now interviewing developers who believe in and understand the need for affordable housing,” said Emily Coffey, Housing Justice attorney at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law who is representing the tenants in their search. “These residents are the very people who have helped make Humboldt Park the vibrant community that it is, which makes it especially unjust that they are being pushed out of their neighborhood at a time when our city desperately needs more affordable housing options, not less.” 

“We are demanding that Amir Syed take action to keep our building and this community affordable for families like ours: he can do that by re-signing the project-based Section 8 contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or he can abide by state law and sell the building to an affordable housing developer of our choice who will keep the building affordable for generations to come,” said Maribett Martinez, one of the women representing the Tenant Association who has lived in the building for 23 years. 

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