NEWS

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November 14, 2008

Displaced apartment tenants credit U of C for financial assistance

For fourth-year Siggy Nachtergaele, getting evicted in the midst of autumn midterms didn’t present too great a problem. The University and MAC Property Management, which owns many apartments in Hyde Park, helped her find an apartment and hire movers, she said.

“The University has been really helpful,” she said. “They’ve gone above and beyond what other landlords have done.”

But there was one trying part of the ordeal: parting with the friends she had grown accustomed to sharing a home with.

“My roommate is moving to Regents, but I’m moving with two other people from the building. It’s tough,” she said. “It’s a hard process to deal with.”

Nachtergaele is one of 44 students living in the University-owned apartment building on East 57th Street and South Drexel Avenue. The tenants were evicted earlier this month over concerns about the building’s structural integrity and will have to vacate their apartments by January 4.

But with the University waiving two months’ rent and footing $500 of each student’s moving costs, Nachtergaele wasn’t the only one to report that separation anxiety has been tougher than finding a new apartment. Many students are satisfied with the University’s efforts to ease the transition.

At first, students were worried when the surprising news came during a busy point in the school year.

“The announcement of our eviction came at a really bad time. It was right before midterms, and for my apartment, all four of us are on the U of Chicago basketball team, right when basketball was kicking into gear,” third-year John Bonelli said in an e-mail interview. “With an already hectic schedule, worrying about a place to live, searching on Craigslist for apartments, and taking the time to go to apartment showings just added to the general stress and lack of time of a normal student.”

Moving presented its own homework.

“I definitely found myself searching through Craigslist for apartment listings when I probably would have otherwise been studying. It was just another unneeded weight on my mind,” he said.

Nevertheless, after initial anger over the University’s sudden move, many students have reacted positively to the University’s help.

“Any landlord could’ve just given us the obligatory notice and that’s it, but the University has done everything they could to help us,” said third-year Ben Nordstrom, who is moving into a new building this weekend. “After all, there’s no point in getting stressed about something that’s beyond our control.”

The University’s efforts included a lottery of vacant apartments in Hyde Park specifically for the evicted students.

“In the end, I’m really pleased with the apartments we did get,” Bonelli said. “Getting that apartment was very lucky—we literally won the lottery—and if it hadn’t been for our luck, I don’t know where we would have ended up.”

Though most students have found new apartments already, the desire to stick together has made the apartment hunt more difficult for fourth-year Zain Gowani and his three roommates.

“There are four of us living together, so it’s been taking a bit longer,” Gowani said.

According to Gowani, the University gave the evicted students a list of local management companies and available apartments, but finding a four-bedroom apartment has so far proven difficult.

“In our particular situation, the University couldn’t really help us much,” he said.

Part of the problem is how ideal the old apartment was.

“We’ve found some, but the problem is coming from a place where the location and price were excellent, that if we’re going to have to pay more or live further away, we want something nice.”