Affordable housing landlord under fire for conditions at apartments in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood

Feds support call to oust landlord after tenants report security issues, pest problems

4624 South Ellis Avenue and Judge Lisa Marino (Google Maps, Judge Lisa Marino)
4624 South Ellis Avenue and Judge Lisa Marino (Google Maps, Judge Lisa Marino)

An affordable housing landlord is under fire for conditions at an apartment complex in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

City attorneys and federal housing officials are working to put the Ellis Lakeview affordable housing tower, at 4624 South Ellis Avenue, into receivership after landlord Apex Chicago IL failed to address complaints from tenants about the conditions, Block Club Chicago reported.

Residents of the tower have requested Apex’s help in resolving plumbing problems, pest infestations and other persistent issues since September 2020 — just over a year after Apex bought the building for $10.75 million. Since Apex took ownership of the building in August 2019, it has failed 27 city inspections and gotten 158 code violations.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cited Apex and property manager Integra Affordable Management for failing to provide “decent, safe and sanitary housing” and for mismanagement of finances and tenant files.

City attorneys are asking Judge Lisa Marino to appoint Community Initiatives Inc. as the general receiver for the property. Community Initiatives partners with the city to administer the Troubled Buildings Initiative and would take over ownership and management of the Ellis Lakeview tower if approved.

According to city attorneys, Apex and Integra have repeatedly failed to provide adequate hot water for tenants and there is no on-site building manager — a role that was filled by four different people in 2020 due to troubles retaining staff. In addition, attorneys say security is inadequate. Broken front doors and gates to the property have led to non-residents sleeping in the laundry room and wandering the complex at night. The building also needs electrical repairs and updates to its fire safety system.

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Court-ordered plumbing work in the building has stalled recently as plumbers have walked off the job and stopped working when Apex and Integra failed to pay them. Integra claims there was a contract dispute.

The owners have also reportedly allowed untrained and unlicensed maintenance staff perform electrical repairs. Fire inspector Bob Steffens also said smoke detectors throughout the building are expired or missing and need to be replaced.

Apex hasn’t paid for water service since February and owes $19,475 in past-due bills, which puts the building at risk for having water shut off altogether.

While Marino didn’t rule on the decision to oust Apex and Integra yet, Rep. Bobby Rush, Sen. Robert Peters and Alderman Sophia King are some of the elected officials supporting the tenants and the calls for receivership.

Apex and Integra’s former attorney Scott Nehls withdrew from the case Tuesday, meaning the companies will have to hire new attorneys by the end of the week.

The next hearing, when Marino is expected to rule on the receivership request, will be May 31.

[BCC] — Victoria Pruitt