After seven months of lengthy negotiations and following two hospitalizations, Reverend Jesse Jackson along with staff, on Tuesday, October 5, joined HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge at the Concordia Place Apartments, a complex that gained worldwide attention after residents complained of infested apartments. She came with promises of more funding.
Located in the Ninth Ward, the 297- unit complex is privately owned by New York-based Capital Realty Group. Mothers, tenants at the property, had appealed to Jackson, Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) and its national youth director, Reverend Cameron Barnes. Jackson had told the mothers to “hold on because help is on the way.”
It was Jackson who months ago called on Fudge for help, along with Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-2nd), Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-1st). Both Kelly and Rush were present at the press conference.
Before the press conference began, Fudge sat in a circle inside the complex’s community hall and spoke privately with the mothers, promising them she will see that the rehabilitation project is completed and that they would receive the resources they needed.
The mothers told Fudge that before Jackson and the RPC came to their rescue, they were living with mold, termites, roaches and mice that were so bad some mothers had to sleep with their children in their cars at night.
They also had to endure having their cars towed, visitation by their families denied, lack of use of the laundromat on weekends, having the children’s playground padlocked, inability to barbecue outdoors, having their grills confiscated by management, their community hall locked, and no Christmas ornaments were to be displayed on their balconies.
Jackson negotiated and signed a Tenants Housing agreement with HUD and the Capital Realty Group. It included an agreement to rehab all 297 units and to end all anti-family rules imposed by management, which has also been replaced.
Jackson thanked Secretary Fudge for visiting the complex. With HUD and the Capital Realty Group working together on the RPC’s demands, Jackson said, “We want this complex to be a role model for other privately-owned but HUD-funded developments.”
Fudge thanked Jackson for calling her months ago for help. “But because of his advocacy we have come so far with this project….”
Having spent time with Governor Pritzker and a day with Mayor Lightfoot, Fudge said, “We are all on the same page, committed that people could live decent and that we will do everything we can to make sure that every person in this country must live in the kind of dignity” they deserve.
While commenting that she has only been in office a few months Fudge said, “We are turning things around.
“We have a long way to go. I work for the federal government. It is not an easy place to work. It’s like turning an ocean liner, but we’re turning it. Just give us a chance.”
Mayor Lightfoot said it is imperative that all levels of government provide people with “quality, safe, affordable housing, and it shouldn’t be the people who live in a place like Concordia Place who got the short end of the stick. That’s unacceptable to everyone.
“While I can’t help what happened before we got here, we’re here now thanks to Reverend Jackson and his tireless advocacy on behalf of the residents of this place,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
“We would not be here” had it not been for Reverend Jackson’s advocacy.” She added, “The fact that he has shown these residents that they could be a part, that they can use their voices to really advocate for themselves to make sure they get a better quality of life.”
Saying that representation from all levels is present, Lightfoot credited their presence to Jackson “on behalf of the residents here. We can never let what happened here happen anywhere in our city.”
Lightfoot said they all have a responsibility to ensure “that the people are living in circumstances that we want our family to live in. Anything short of that, we’re missing the mark.” She vowed to give her full support for the project.
Kelly also thanked Jackson, Fudge and the tenants who advocated for themselves. Kelly said she and Rush will be voting on resources to bring money back to the city of Chicago with a lot of funds around housing.
Rush said, “Concordia is just the first bite of the apple, but there are many more” improvements of housing to come.
Answering a reporter’s question, the mayor said, “It has to be a new day when it comes to private” owners of housing funded by HUD.
“This is HUD property, but these are our residents,” she told reporters. “We have a responsibility, regardless of what the jurisdictional lines may be, to make sure that we’re doing everything possible that they live in a safe, clean affordable place.”
Both Kelly and Rush vowed to fight for the resources the complex needs to complete the rehab process.