DeKALB – Jordan Lanum felt relieved Monday knowing he wouldn’t be homeless when he started classes at Northern Illinois University.
More than 10 DeKalb residents have been searching for housing since city of DeKalb officials condemned Edgebrook Manor apartments Friday after uncovering what they said were dangerous and unsanitary conditions.
“It’s crazy to move in on the 15th and then be told you have to leave,” Lanum, a 24-year-old senior, said. “But I guess I’m not homeless anymore, so I can breathe a little easier.”
On Friday, residents of the 47-unit building located at 912 Edgebrook Drive were told they had to leave within 24 hours, although they were allowed to keep their belongings in their apartments.
Since Friday, city officials and staff with Townsend Property Management, the leasing agent for the building, have been working with tenants to find them other places to live. Lanum leased a new apartment Monday afternoon after staying on friends’ couches over the weekend.
Tenants were able to sign lease termination papers at Townsend’s office Monday, with the guarantee from property owner Pat Bragg that she would refund their security deposits, as well as prorated rent from August, within a day.
Tom Townsend, co-owner of the property management firm, said he spoke to a handful of tenants over the weekend about finding new apartments.
He had some concerns, however, that residents would not be able to find an apartment for the same price they were paying at Edgebrook Manor, at $505 or less a month for a one-bedroom or efficiency apartment. He said DeKalb has a shortage of one-bedroom units, and two-bedrooms generally start at $700.
“There are a lot of people, regrettably, that I don’t know what their next move is going to be,” Townsend said.
Lanum will have to pay $555 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in a converted single-family home, a $50 jump from what he paid at Edgebrook Manor.
“I mean, it’s not really OK, but I can manage,” Lanum said.
City Attorney Dean Frieders said that in the rare case that city staff consider condemning a residential property, they weigh the effect of closing the building with the need for residents to have a sanitary and safe place to live. In Edgebrook Manor’s case, the number of safety concerns compelled staff to take immediate action.
City staff learned of the building conditions Thursday when a tenant approached an inspector with the city’s Crime Free Housing Bureau who was performing a sidewalk property inspection, Frieders said.
When inspectors met Friday with Bragg, they found toilets in some units did not flush and what they believed to be urine in the hallways. Inspectors also discovered fire doors had been replaced with normal doors, ceiling tiles were missing because of a roof leak, smoke detectors did not work and piles of debris in and outside the building, the city inspection report shows.
So far, Bragg isn’t facing any fines or citations. Frieders said city staff would work with her if she decided to improve the building. If not, the city could issue citations or file charges in court. Bragg, who DeKalb County property records show owns more than 15 other local properties, declined to comment Monday.
“In large measure, it’s up to the property owner,” Frieders said. “Our goal is to meaningfully address these issues.”