Rogers Park housing activist Mary Jane Haggerty dies

Friends are mourning the loss of Rogers Park housing activist Mary Jane Haggerty, who died on Dec. 28 after a yearlong fight with breast cancer.

Friends and supporters say Haggerty dedicated her life to battling slumlords and fighting for affordable housing.

Haggerty was director of housing programming at the Rogers Park Community Council.

"She was a tireless advocate for affordable housing," says Alderman Joe Moore, D-49. "She went after the bad landlords, but defended the good landlords, too."

Moore says Haggerty was instrumental in uncovering a neighborhood mortgage scheme perpetrated by Mike Kakvand several years ago. Kakvand pled guilty to fraud in 2007 for buying 30 Chicago apartment buildings under the pretense of converting them to condos, then selling them to straw buyers and evading the mortgages.

Kakvand's scheme, which Haggerty discovered, created vacant and decaying buildings that became centers from crime in the neighborhood, according to authorities.

Moore says her death is a great loss for the Rogers Park community.

"I think she's just irreplaceable. She will be sorely missed," says Moore.

Fran Tobin, an organizer with Northside Action for Justice, said Haggerty "was a dedicated, honest, upfront woman who did what she could to make things better for people."

"A lot of her work was not headline gathering," Tobin says. "It was the day-to-day work that had to be done."

Haggerty's wake will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at John E. Maloney Funeral Home, 1359 W. Devon Ave.  A funeral service is scheduled to begin 9:30 a.m. at Old St. Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams St.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to a special emergency housing fund established in Mary Jane's honor at the Rogers Park Community Council.