Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday January 28th, 2015, 3:42pm

Activists Bring Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' To Citibank (VIDEO)

About 30 Chicago housing activists picketed outside a Citibank branch Wednesday morning as part of their ongoing fight to save a Rogers Park "community house."

Organizers toted signs reading, "I support the house on Ridge" and "Housing is a human right," while tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., were inside the branch attempting to meet with a Citibank mortgage representative to discuss their offer to purchase the foreclosed property.

Jorge Ortiz, an organizer with Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, lives in the home with his family, including his mother and uncle. Ortiz and his family moved into the Rogers Park home in 2012 after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. Organizers said Citibank later purchased the home at a foreclosure auction.

The current tenants of the bank-owned home, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house" that hosts clothing drives, movie screenings, health fairs and other neighborhood events. People who have had difficulties finding affordable housing also stay there, organizers said. The tenants at the property are currently facing eviction.

Ortiz's mother, Maria Dolores-Calvillo, is seeking to purchase the home for $200,000 in order to avoid eviction and maintain the property as a community space. Ortiz said Citibank branch representatives directed the family to speak with officials at the corporate level.

"We went in and explained the situation ... That we're trying to save our community house. That we have a pre-approval, and we want to speak to somebody at Citibank that's going to approve, or at least look at, our offer," Ortiz told reporters outside the Citibank branch at 2295 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Before Dolores-Calvillo decided she would attempt to buy the home, the tenants and their supporters were trying to get the bank to consider donating the property or selling it at a low cost to a Chicago-based community land trust. The non-profit Casas del Pueblo Community Land Trust, which was created by the Albany Park neighborhood group Centro Autonomo, was willing to receive the title of the home and turn it into permanent affordable housing, while also keeping it open as a neighborhood hub. Antonio Gutierrez, housing coordinator at Centro Autonomo, said the group has not had any luck going that route. 

Ortiz said the bank has, however, offered to sell the home at market value at about $350,000.

Here's more from Gutierrez, Ortiz and scenes from the protest:

Organizers and tenants said they will continue their attempts to negotiate with the bank.

"It's a lot of money," Dolores-Calvillo said of her $200,000 offer. "The bank needs to understand that it's a lot of money, and it can do a lot of things with $200,000 ... I'm only asking for a house to keep many families in there."

It is urgent, Gutierrez said, that the negotiation process moves forward, as the tenants "might get evicted today or tomorrow."

"Citibank needs to understand the importance of keeping families in (their) home," Dolores-Calvillo stressed.  "I'm not asking for a free house. I'm asking (for the bank) to give me options to buy that house for the community."


One of the points that irks me is the 'against the culture of bank foreclosure and eviction' in so many posts and media releases about this property. What the Calvillo-Ortiz family is doing in no way helps the people (Dwight McBride and family) that were actually foreclosed out of the house. They have seized an opportunity provided by another family's misfortune.
This is the third eviction in 5 years that the Calvillo-Ortiz clan has been involved in. 7250 N. Claremont--bought in 2004. 7463 N. Ridge--bought in 2008. Stopped making mortgage payments on both properties. Claremont was foreclosed in 2012. 7463 Ridge was foreclosed in 2011--a friend (tax records list Steven Serikaku) bought it in 2012 at a steeply discounted price, and rents it back to the family as a thriving daycare business. 
Late 2012-early 2013--the family gained entry to 7245 N. Ridge. "Mama Maria Dolores" gave an interview to the Chicago Tribune in August 2013 saying she was homeless and having to sleep on a cot in her daycare facility. In truth, she was living in a 5 bedroom prairie-style house, free of rent, taxes, city service bills.
As a person who lives next door I have repeatedly asked, politely and in person, for the late parties to quiet down after 11 pm. Families with preschool children, those who leave for work at 5 a.m., people who simply want to live without someone else's loud music and voices intruding into their homes at midnight, are not respected by this family. They have laughed at polite requests, made derogatory comments, then continued the party.
The misrepresentations of the Calvillo-Ortiz family and some of their supporters attempt to play on the consciences of the community and media. They have claimed to provide daycare and after-school homework support for the community at 7245 N. Ridge. The house is actually vacant during the day as the family go about their daily business. They claim to have community gardens at 7245 Ridge to feed local families. What they have is a 5 ft by 8 ft plot, that was only installed in September 2014, once the eviction proceedings got serious. 
The family's pattern for the past 10 years is to acquire a property, stop supporting it financially, then demand it either be given to them or sold back to them at a huge discount. They are gaming the system. Their manipulations for their own comfort and profit make it that much harder for families who are truly abused by the foreclosure culture to find support and justice.


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