Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.
The mission of the LCBH is to promote the rights of tenant access to safe, decent and affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis through legal representation, advocacy, education, outreach and supportive services. The Supportive Service Department allows LCBH to provide holistic services to vulnerable tenants to prevent a cycle of eviction, job instability, and homelessness. Approximately 20% of clients accepted for legal representation by LCBH’s eviction defense program are internally referred to receive supportive services. The Supportive Services team considers the individual and family needs to develop a comprehensive plan that will address barriers to maintaining permanent housing and work to achieve greater housing stability.
LCBH assesses renters’ needs, and provides assistance in locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing referrals to other essential services. As LCBH works primarily with low-income renters, affordability is the most common barrier to housing we see, but many clients face other serious obstacles that threaten their housing stability.
Increasingly, it is more and more difficult for Supportive Services to provide the level of services our tenants need to attain housing stability. The recession has been difficult on most of us, but it seems the greatest burden has been placed on those least able to afford it.
The fifth issue in a series of foreclosure reports prepared by LCBH chronicles the often overlooked story of how Chicago renters are affected, and often displaced, by foreclosure.
The impact of the foreclosure crisis on renters has been catastrophic and, despite a 37% decrease in total filings on apartment buildings for the City of Chicago last year, the report shows the disproportionate devastation that continues in particular neighborhoods. All 10 of the community areas with the highest number of units impacted by foreclosure in 2013 are located on either the South or West sides of the city. These communities have had an average of 21.2% of their rental housing units enter foreclosure since 2009 - double the city-wide percent of rental units affected.
With the fragmented geography of the crisis in mind, the 2013 Report offers a guide to place-based policies, strategies, and solutions, tailored to stabilize long-term affordable housing in the foreclosure crisis context.
On Saturday, May 31st, LCBH participated in Chicago Dream House, an interactive community event organized by Albany Park artist Karen Yates. The event was created using a unique artistic and symbolic vision to generate social engagement and awareness, focusing on housing issues in the neighborhood of Albany Park. Throughout the day, local artists and members of the public created murals on a symbolic house structure. Inside the structure, a circle of chairs served as a discussion ring where organizers, volunteers, and community members delved into specific housing issues affecting the community. In addition to discussion panels, the event featured skits performed by community groups to bring to life recent campaigns to preserve affordable housing. Community and advocacy groups hosted booths around the structure to provide housing and social service information and to answer community members’ questions.
Patricia Fron, LCBH’s Housing Policy Specialist and TFIP Administrator, lead a discussion panel which focused on the general effects of foreclosure on the City of Chicago over the past five years. Her conversation was informed by our recently released 2013 Annual Foreclosure Report, which sheds light on a range of issues that have affected affordable rental housing since LCBH first reporting on the foreclosure crisis in 2009.
The Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority have provided funding to LCBH, making it possible for us to reach out to communities throughout Illinois that have been affected by the foreclosure crisis. Although we do not offer direct representation to tenants outside of Chicago, LCBH is travelling throughout Illinois to provide legal information and resources to those areas disproportionately impacted by this crisis. We are visiting targeted areas which are often served by only one non-profit legal service, either Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation or Prairie State Legal Services, who are supporting large geographical areas in a broad spectrum of legal issues ranging from domestic violence and child support to defending termination of public benefits such as social security benefits. Often renters coping with the loss of housing due to foreclosure issues are unable to secure legal help. Our helpline may be the only legal resource accessible to people who live in more remote areas of our state.
The Reed Family had been peacefully living in the Chatham neighborhood since 2010 in a home they rented. Their lives were turned upside down late last year after their landlord lost the building to foreclosure and the foreclosing bank evicted them from their home.
The Reeds knew their building was in foreclosure and they had received the required 90 days’ notice to vacate, so they weren’t shocked or surprised when they were summoned to eviction court. As the Reeds had done nothing wrong nor had the plaintiff alleged any breach of their lease, the Reeds didn't feel they would need an attorney. They showed up to court with their lease in hand only to have the eviction court judge summarily enter an Order of Possession (eviction order) against the family.
Luckily for the Reeds, they were referred to LCBH. The Reeds had a valid lease, and LCBH confirmed that their lease provided them with the right to stay in their home until the end of the lease term. The LCBH legal team jumped into action and filed a motion asking the court to vacate (make void) the eviction order and to stay (put on hold) the execution of the eviction order until the court made a decision on the motion. Not only was the legal team able to reach an agreement that allowed the Reeds to stay in their home through the end of their lease, they also got the Reeds an additional month allowing them time to find new housing, got the case dismissed and had the court record sealed.
Gilberto and Margarita, a married couple with five minor children, had moved four times in six years and were seeing the adverse effects of moving to new neighborhoods, with new friends, and new schools. So when it came time to move again they walked around Pilsen to find a suitable place where the landlord might be amenable to a long-term lease.
In June of 2009, they found a two-flat with a “For Rent” sign. They called the landlord who, much to their relief, was willing to give them a five year lease. As their primary language is Spanish, staying in Pilsen was important.
Gilberto and Margarita faithfully paid their rent each month through early 2012 when their landlord stopped collecting the rent. Unbeknownst to Gilberto and Margarita, the building went into foreclosure and was sold at the sheriff’s sale in the spring of 2012. As it frequently happens these days, Fannie Mae took over the property from the lending bank; here, Wells Fargo. The family started getting notices, in the summer of 2012, from two different real estate companies, claiming to work for the new owners. One notice threatened to change the locks on the doors if the family didn’t soon move. The second notice held out the opportunity to continue leasing, but no one returned Margarita’s calls and no one attempted to collect rent or to tell the family where and how to pay.
Last month, LCBH partnered with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) as featured presenters for their Building Bridges workshops. CHA’s workshops provide continued education for members of their Housing Choice Voucher program, including both renter and landlord participants, on issues they may face in the housing market.
Through this coordinated effort, LCBH led six successful workshops that provided valuable information on the purpose, intent, and protections afforded by Chicago’s newly enacted Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Properties Ordinance, also known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance. LCBH staff attorneys Aileen Flanagan, Jim Sojoodi, and Frank Avellone, and program manager Patricia Fron, led the educational presentations at CHA training sites across Chicago. In total, the workshops were attended by 268 CHA program participants, who were engaged and informed by LCBH’s presentations about the new legal protections afforded to renters during the judicial foreclosure process in Illinois.
LCBH would like to thank CHA for the opportunity to join forces in educating Chicago’s renters and landlords on their new rights. We are also pleased to announce that we will be leading another six CHA workshops this month, continuing our partnership together!
With last year’s passage of Chicago’s Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance and Illinois Public Act 098-0514, both of which amend foreclosure law, LCBH staff members have been busy updating our foreclosure materials. The most notable and sought after of these are our foreclosure brochures for both statewide renters and those living in the City of Chicago.
The updated brochures include crucial explanations of the rights and responsibilities of renters who are living in a foreclosed property. The brochures provide introductions to the new legal protections under the relevant laws, as well as a brief self-help guide to understanding the legal timeline of a foreclosure and how to determine whether a foreclosure has taken place. Most importantly, the brochures contain contact information for LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline: Chicago: (312) 784-3507. Both brochures are available in English and Spanish. The Chicago version of the brochure is also available online in Chinese and Polish.
The brochures provide an excellent first-step guide for renters, offering information to foster understanding of the often mystifying foreclosure process. LCBH is confident these updated materials will play a key role in our outreach efforts throughout Chicago and across Illinois.
LCBH is primarily known as a Chicago legal aid agency, but with special funding from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), LCBH is able to provide foreclosure expertise throughout the state. LCBH staff members are often on the road raising awareness about the rights of renters caught up in the foreclosure crisis. Recently, LCBH staff travelled downstate to the city of East St. Louis to visit with elected officials, social service providers, and religious leaders.
At each stop, LCBH staff discussed the foreclosure crisis and how it has impacted each community and were able to provide information about the rights renters have when confronted with the threat of losing their homes as a result of a foreclosure of their rental property. LCBH outreach staff members were warmly received by city officials and civic leaders, state senators and representatives, and US Congressman William Enyart. Staff also visited the St. Clair County Courthouse in nearby Belleville to provide resources for the judiciary and the self help desks at the courthouse law library, and met with Judge McGlynn, who runs the foreclosure docket, and Judge Rudoph, who runs the eviction docket. Both judges responded very positively to LCBH materials and felt they would be a valuable tool in helping local area renters.