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Champaign residents left homeless after their apartment complex is condemned

A sign on the window of a Champaign Park Apartments unit on Jan. 2 in Champaign, Illinois, marks it as condemned. Champaign’s Code Compliance Manager Tim Spear said 393 of the complex’s 504 complexes are currently condemned.

When Christine Lucks’ first-floor apartment flooded with water on Aug. 28, she said she first assumed that her toilet was leaking. 

“When I first got up, I came to the restroom, and it was like water on the floor,” she said. “As I was cleaning up the water, it was more water raining down on me from the ceiling, and I looked up, and that’s when I saw all of this water coming down.

 

Lucks said she contacted management about the water problem and was told that someone would fix the issue soon. In the meantime, she stayed with her daughter while she waited for the complex to fix the water leakage.  

However, when she visited her apartment a few days later, the ceiling had already collapsed. On Sept. 3, the city condemned her apartment, and she was forced to leave. 

But Lucks isn’t the only resident whose apartment was condemned. She is one of dozens of Champaign Park Apa

rtments residents whose units are currently condemned. Many are staying in hotel rooms paid for by the city of Champaign

On Feb, 9, the city will go to court to ask for an extension of its temporary emergency housing for residents like Lucks whose units were condemned last year due to water and heating problems. 

The city began providing temporary housing to tenants in November after multiple units in the Champaign Park Apartments complex were condemned due to a lack of heat, according to Tim Spear, Champaign code compliance manager.  

“We went out to verify the concerns that residents had raised, and on finding the lack of heat in several buildings, we issued condemnation notices requiring the owners to fix the heat problem in those buildings,” he said. 

The city received more reports in December about buildings having severe water leaks, broken water heaters and issues with the plumbing system, Spear said, which caused floods and ceilings to collapse. 

Out of 504 units in the complex, Spear said that 393 are condemned as of Jan. 31. 

The city has provided temporary housing to residents affected by the condemnations that occurred in October and December, said Nancy Rabel, an assistant city attorney. 

Rabel said it’s typically the responsibility of the apartment company to provide this housing, but because that didn’t happen, the city took on the role. 

The city has a court order that requires the Champaign Park Apartments owner to reimburse the city for the first round of temporary housing for the residents whose apartments were condemned in October, she said. 

However, according to Rabel, the company has not paid the money, which equals around $22,000.

The city has another court order that will also require the company to reimburse the city for the costs of providing housing to the residents who were evicted in December, Rabel said.

“We do have a court order that says that they are supposed to be housing those people,” Rabel said. “If they don’t do that, the city is allowed to, and then the city can go back in and seek reimbursement for those costs.”

She said the complex has already met with the city and appeared at the last court hearing.

“We’re trying to work with them to get a plan going forward, and in an attempt to try to really locate these residents, either get them back into units back at Champaign Park Apartments or get them into other long-term housing solutions,” she said. 

Lucks lived at Champaign Park Apartments for seven years before her apartment was condemned in early September. 

The company didn’t help her find alternative housing or update her about when her maintenance would fix her unit’s issues, Lucks said, so she’s stopped trying to contact them.

“When they condemned it, I couldn’t stay there,” Lucks said. “And I got in touch with the management again, and they kept telling me like, ‘Oh, somebody’s supposed to come out and do something,’ and nobody did. They didn’t offer me any alternatives. I was confused. Like, this is like a nightmare. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Currently, Lucks stays with her daughter for one half of the week and with her son for the other half of the week. She said she is still looking for housing.

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