CHICAGO (CBS) — Tenants of a Rogers Park apartment building claim their landlords are neglecting bug and rodent problems to try and drive them out, in hope of bringing in new tenants who can afford higher rent.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports about two dozen tenants and friends chanted and sang Thursday outside Astor Apartments, 1246 W. Pratt Blvd., and said they want to continue living there, despite conditions they described as deplorable.

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“I got a cat, so the rats ain’t coming through,” he said. “Matter of fact, they was trying to come through, he pulled the steel wool out of the wall, ‘come on in, play with me,’” tenant Melvin Jennings said.

The tenants said the building’s owners have been gentrifying them out of the building, so they can be replaced by students at nearby Loyola University, and others who can afford higher rents.

Arbie Bowman said she and her daughter like the location, but not the conditions in the studio apartment they’ve shared for 2 1/2 years.

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“We’ve had mices. My daughter was eaten up last year with bed bugs so bad that she slept on the coffee table, and I’m lucky if I got two hours of sleep every night and still went to work and did an eight-hour job,” she said. “My daughter had to miss school and go to the hospital because of this, and the owners, they don’t want to come in. I had to get a cat now, just to get rid of the mices in my house.”

Gerald Starr, 52, said he was paying $575 a month in rent on a month-to-month lease, and ended up homeless, couch surfing with friends, when his lease was not renewed.

Starr joined other tenants who argue the building’s new owners are neglecting roaches, bedbugs, and mice – even as they jack up the rents in hope of discouraging the old tenants.

He said he believes the new owners are trying “to force everybody out to raise the rent up two or three times.”

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Tenant organizers said they want BJB properties to fix up the structure, then find some federal dollars to subsidize the low-income tenants who want to stay in the 12-story building.