Civil rights lawyers allege a gross pattern of discrimination against dozens of Uptown tenants
For immediate release
September 1, 2016
Chicago – In a complaint filed today with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, civil rights lawyers allege that a building management company in Uptown has discriminated against dozens of tenants who are immigrant senior citizens and participants in the federally-subsidized Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program administered by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA).
The discrimination complaint was filed by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights against Horizon Realty Group, a company that in 2010 took over management of the 144-unit Sheridan Plaza apartment building at 4607 N. Sheridan Road.
According to the complaint, between October 2015 and May 2016, Horizon coerced at least 18 senior citizen tenants of Sheridan Plaza to sign new leases in the middle of their lease terms with rent hikes. The tenants are mostly members of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) who have lived in the Sheridan Plaza building for roughly 20 years.
As a result, and because the Chicago Housing Authority did not cover the increased rent amounts, the tenants who live on modest fixed incomes were saddled with rents that were much higher than they could afford, threatening them with being forced to move after years of establishing vital support networks in their neighborhood.
“These tenants are mostly refugees and immigrants from the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cuba and Korea who couldn’t understand the rental documents in front of them,” said Lori Clark of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus.
“The pattern of discrimination we found caused severe trauma to many senior citizens who are already suffering from a range of health issues and disabilities.”
In one case, a Horizon agent gave a 97 year old tenant from Cuba a 30-page lease in English explaining that her rent would be nearly doubled. Despite her very limited English, the tenant was told to sign the document on the spot was not given a copy. Another tenant, a 95 year old refugee from the Soviet Union, was offered a $6,804 refund by Horizon in excessive rent in exchange for either not signing a new lease or signing at a high market rate. Although the tenant declined the offer and was vindicated by a subsequent CHA audit, he was later given notice of termination.
“We hope to win some relief for these tenants and affirmative action, including staff training at the very least, in order to make sure that Horizon never violates the Fair Housing Ordinance again,” said Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee. “An organization like JASC should not have to divert its valuable time and resources simply to enforce the existing law.”
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a recognized expert with a long history of fighting discrimination in housing. The Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and segregation in the Chicago metropolitan area. Each year, volunteer attorneys from prominent member law firms donate over 15,000 hours of legal services through the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.
Jane Addams Senior Caucus is a multiracial, grassroots organization led by concerned seniors in the Chicago metropolitan area. We cross neighborhood, racial, religious and socio-economic lines to find common ground upon which to act on our values. Through leadership development, organizing and popular education, we use the power of our collective voice to work for economic, social and racial justice for all seniors and our communities.