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Low-income residents say they’re being squeezed out of Albany Park

CHICAGO — Residents at an Albany Park building gathered Saturday to protest impending evictions announced by a new management company.

"They just sent us a paper saying we need to leave by Aug. 31," longtime resident Maria Pineda said. "Everybody is very scared because not everybody has the money to do it.”

The 50-unit building was recently purchased by Stark County Land Company. No one from the company could be reached for comment. But low-income residents say they're being squeezed out of once-affordable apartments.

Across the U.S., an affordable housing crisis is escalating. Reports show millions of low-income Americans are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes on rent alone. And a recent study found that half of renters in Chicago can’t afford where they live.

Pineda has lived in the building for 19 years. She and her family rent a one-bedroom apartment for $650 per month.

"We have leaks in the walls, we have mold, we have bugs, we have cockroaches," she said. "There’s people been sleeping, and one of my neighbors got bitten by a rat."

In the building's courtyard Saturday, residents held signs that read, "This is a community, not a Monopoly board," and, "We are not going anywhere."

Union organizer Jake Marshall said, "We fight gentrification by helping tenants organize."

"If you can’t stay in your home," he noted, "how can you fight for fair wages? How can you fight for safe neighborhoods, if you’re having to move every two years because of rents going up?”

For Leo Flores, a retiree scraping by in a rat-infested apartment that costs $575 per month, the prospect of eviction is worrisome. If he has to find a more expensive apartment, he said, he may lose his home and his independence.

"What do you want, truly?" he asked. "You want to suck my blood?”

Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan to spend $30 million on an effort to add 300 affordable units to the city.