LOGAN SQUARE — A group of housing rights activists in Logan Square who have been fighting what they say are extreme rent increases have taken their battle to the banks.
Somos Logan Square and Centro Autonomo — along with residents who said they have been forced to move due to rent increases — came together over the weekend to protest Wintrust Bank, a lender who financed building purchases that the groups argue led to the rent increases.
About a dozen people entered the bank, 2814 W. Fullerton Ave., Saturday morning and began chanting "which side are you on?"
Diana Bienko, a renter who was forced to move due to a rent increase in a building that was financed by Wintrust, spoke about her "eviction" and the bank's role as police tried to get the group to leave the bank.
Bienko said she was informed that her lease was terminated right around Thanksgiving by Jab Realty and that she had 30 days to move.
"I and other long-term residents of Logan Square have been displaced and no longer can afford to live here," she said.
Bienko called on the bank to divest from projects that could lead to these types of rent increases, such as those that are occurring at a building M. Fishman & Co. recently purchased at 2715 N. Milwaukee Ave. where rents have nearly doubled for some residents since the purchase.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) attended the protest and spoke to about 40 people who gathered outside the bank after the group was kicked out by police.
Rosa, whose ward office is in the previously mentioned building that Fishman owns, told the group he would not have opened his office there if he knew the real estate developer was going to purchase the building.
"If I would have known that he would purchase that property, I never would have moved there," the alderman said.
Ramirez-Rosa also called on Wintrust Bank to "act responsibly" when giving out loans to real estate developers.
"We are targeting Wintrust Bank because they have given Mark Fishman the money with which he wreaks havoc in our community," Ramirez-Rosa said at the protest.
The bank provided a $10.9 million loan to Fishman to purchase the building at 2715 N. Milwaukee Ave. in December.
Representatives from Wintrust did not respond to requests for comment.
No one was arrested during the protest.
Noah Moskowitz, a community organizer with Somos Logan Square, said the group has sent multiple letters to the bank seeking a meeting to discuss lending to developers such as Fishman, but has not been granted a meeting.
That lack of a meeting is why they occupied the bank Saturday morning.
"We just sort of made it clear than in a way you brought this on yourself," said Noah Moskowitz, a community organizer with Somos Logan Square.
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