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Multimillion-Dollar Plan In The Works To Fix Up Troubled Concordia Place Housing Development, But Residents Are Skeptical

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There is now a multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade every home at a troubled low-income apartment complex on the city's Far South Side.

CBS 2 exposed horrid living conditions at Concordia Place. And now as to the upgrade plan, tenants had one question when they talked to CBS 2's Tim McNicholas – what took so long?

Pest control trucks, construction crews, maintenance workers – these are what the people of Concordia Place have seen over the past few weeks. But they're not sold just yet.

"Actually, man, they need to gut it out," said tenant Lester Grover.

"I hope everything come about and they see the problem," added tenant Patrick Burnett.

We've exposed mold, mice, and mismanagement dating back years at the privately-owned Section 8 complex. Now, sources tell CBS 2 the New York-based owners have agreed to spend at least $3 million dollars fixing the problems.

A Concordia Place spokeswoman says they've hired a "top-notch architecture firm" to redesign the buildings for a new Concordia. But some of the tenants aren't so optimistic.

"I have no confidence in nobody until I start seeing results," Burnett said. "It's been too long."

Burnett said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should have cracked down on the property years ago. They inspected it in 2018, and despite noting some problems, they scored it nine points above the state average – giving it a 94 out of 100.

"I don't know how," Burnett said. "Maybe they was here talking and visiting the rats, because they wasn't visiting the tenants."

Records show HUD inspected just 25 of the 297 units, which the department said is a standard random sample. HUD also gave management a month's notice for that inspection, and some tenants say management took advantage of it.

"They was out here for like two weeks before the inspection came... come out here, they patch up everything; make it look good," Burnett said, "and then after the inspection, you don't see nobody."

The City of Chicago found for violations for rodents two weeks before HUD's inspection and a broken porch three months after it. But even then, the problems persisted.

Now, all the residents can do is hope that this time is different.

HUD issued the following statement:

"HUD expects owners to maintain properties in decent, safe and sanitary conditions year round. REAC is one of several tools HUD uses to ensure this. Per the REAC protocol, a random sample of units are inspected to assess the overall probable condition of a property. Because of this random sample, some of the units where city code violations occurred may not have been inspected. Advance notice to owners is standard HUD protocol for REAC inspections.

"As a part of the action plan that HUD has established, Capital Realty Group has committed $3 million in owner funds as part of a renovation plan that is being developed in consultation with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Concordia Place Tenant Association for review by HUD. As the plan is still in development, options such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits, an IRS program, and other state and local funding sources for affordable housing will be considered based on an assessment of what will be included in the renovation plan."

Concordia Place spokeswoman Mika Stambaugh said in a statement: "We are working with HUD to ensure a high quality of housing is delivered to all residents. All of the necessary repairs have and will continue to be addressed, including an aggressive pest control plan. We have hired an architect to design the 'New Concordia' and are committed to the success of the project."

We were still waiting to hear back from Concordia about the HUD inspection history as of airtime.

Meanwhile, the fix could take a while. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) is also involved, and her office reports the upgrades should begin in late summer. The pest and mold control are already under way.

Kelly offered the following breakdown of the upgrade plan:

"A HUD representative informed us today that it has been active at Concordia Place Apartment Complex making improvements, and putting in place a plan to upgrade the units, remove mold and implement pest control.

"HUD is dividing work into two phases, with a short-term plan and a long-term plan.

"Short-term Plan:
• Currently conducting inspections on each of the units.
• Contractors for mold remediation and pest control have conducted and completed an overall inspection at Concordia Place and are devising an action plan. Once the action plan is completed, mold will be removed and pest control started.

"Long-term plan:
• HUD is creating a long-term Capital Improvement Plan to upgrade all units in the building.
• Each unit will be upgraded.
• Upgrades are expected to begin late summer 2021.
• The cost is expected to be in the millions."

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