Fair Housing Victory

IV Preston has lived in an apartment building in Hyde Park near 53rd and Harper since 2008. For years, the apartment building had a manual front door. For IV, who has a disability and uses a motorized wheelchair, the door was difficult to use. About six months ago, IV decided to do something about it. "I was over at a friend of mine's," IV said. "He was talking about a situation. He told me about this group." IV's friend is Mike Sentino, a leader with DRACH, Access Living's Housing Organizing Group, which advocates for the housing rights of people with disabilities.

IV was interested. He started to attend DRACH meetings. He started to connect with other people with disabilities who lived in his building. With the support of Brock Grosso, Access Living's Housing Organizer, IV organized the building group. Together, they put together a list of concerns they had regarding the building in Hyde Park.

One of those concerns was the front door. They all wanted a new front door. Believing that an inaccessible front door would trigger the rights of IV and the other tenants under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Brock approached Mary Rosenberg, Access Living's Fair Housing Attorney. In January of 2015, Mary wrote a demand letter to the management company of IV's building. The letter explained that, under the law, the tenants had a right to an accessible entrance, and the building would be required to install an accessible door. The property owners contacted Access Living in March, informing Mary that IV would need to fill out an accommodation request. According to law, a person with a disability is not required to fill out a form to request an accommodation. Nevertheless, to move the process forward, IV filled out the form. Yet, in April, no new door had been installed. At that point, Mary made a phone call. "I said we'd file a complaint with HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) if we don't have an answer soon," she said.

The phone call made a difference. New front doors were installed in mid-May. IV, and the other residents, finally had an accessible entrance. Speaking about the doors, IV said, "It made me feel good. It's easier for us to get in now."

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(photo above: automatic door opener for front entrance at Hyde Park Apartment Building)

A new front door wasn't the only victory for IV and the other residents. The management company also replaced machines in the laundry room because the old machines often broke down. IV is pleased about the work down to improve the building, and is pleased that the property owners have responded to their concerns. "There are still some issues," he said. "But at least they (property owners) have got it started."