Blog: Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)

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.

Letter from Charlotte

Following is a recent letter to LCBH from a client expressing her gratitude for the support she and her family received from LCBH. We want to share this heartwarming story with you, as your support is what makes these stories possible. Thank you!

My name is Charlotte. I came to the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing in February, very distressed and afraid of being put out on the streets of Chicago. My landlord, I had been renting with for 8 years, went into foreclosure. I found out when the bank came and put a sign on the front door while I was shoveling snow. They told me I could call the bank and they would tell me what to do. I did not know anything about foreclosure, 90 day notices or being served a forceful eviction notice. I called the bank and they told me I would probably have to move.

Letter from Charlotte

Following is a recent letter to LCBH from a client expressing her gratitude for the support she and her family received from LCBH. We want to share this heartwarming story with you, as your support is what makes these stories possible. Thank you!

My name is Charlotte. I came to the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing in February, very distressed and afraid of being put out on the streets of Chicago. My landlord, I had been renting with for 8 years, went into foreclosure. I found out when the bank came and put a sign on the front door while I was shoveling snow. They told me I could call the bank and they would tell me what to do. I did not know anything about foreclosure, 90 day notices or being served a forceful eviction notice. I called the bank and they told me I would probably have to move.

Patricia Fron leading CHA workshop

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!

Bey Family

Veronica Bey came to LCBH in May 2013 looking for help. Veronica, her father, and her four (soon to be five) children participated in the Housing Choice Voucher program. The apartment they were living in was no longer eligible for the program because of failed apartment inspections by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and, as a result, the landlord evicted the Bey family from their home. With the help of the LCBH legal team, Veronica and her family were able to reach a settlement that provided the family with additional time to move out. Housing Choice Voucher holders often encounter difficulty in finding places to rent, and since the Beys were unable to find new housing by the agreed deadline an “Order of Possession” (eviction order) was entered against them.

At this point, the LCBH Supportive Services team stepped in to help. In July, the Beys located a suitable unit with a landlord who was willing to rent to them. The CHA was not able to issue the required moving papers until August and sadly, the landlord decided to rent to another family.

In that same month, Veronica gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby. With the help of their friends, family and church, the Beys were able to temporarily move into an apartment above their church.

Couple struggle with housing issues

Do you remember how long your last lease was? A page or two? It probably wasn’t 20+ pages, the typical length of a lease for a resident of subsidized housing in Chicago.

What’s in those lengthy leases? Rules. To qualify for subsidized housing, residents must go through a rigorous background check and application process.

Once approved, residents are asked to sign paperwork agreeing to abide by a comprehensive set of rules. Any violation is grounds for eviction.

Many of the rules that these residents must abide by seem quite reasonable. There are the standard prohibitions on noise and damage. There are bans on criminal conduct, drug use, and gang activity. But other rules seem unnecessarily restrictive, especially to anyone used to the freedom of the private housing market. The following are actual rules enforced in some Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) properties:

Volunteer Spotlight: Sean Mines

The Evolving Pro Bono Attorney
Sean Mines

Sean Mines is in his third year as a volunteer with LCBH. During that time he has volunteered over 200 hours with us and worked on dozens of cases. That’s quite an impressive feat for someone who isn’t even a litigator in his day-to-day job! What got this transactional attorney away from his desk and into the court room?

Sean began volunteering with LCBH back in 2010. He was intimidated by the prospect of appearing in court, but was also committed to developing his legal skills. After researching several different pro bono opportunities, he decided LCBH’s program would be the best fit for him.

Sean started out covering basic court appearances. First a return date. Then a status date. Once he felt comfortable stepping up in court, he began to cover more substantive hearings. Sean kept coming back to LCBH because of the hands-on nature of the work and the supportive staff. “I could see immediately the impact of my work and everyone was so appreciative of my efforts.” Sean also appreciated that pro bono attorneys were invited to attend intake meetings and included in discussions about which cases to accept.

Tackling Housing Discrimination Head-On

Leta Young resided in her apartment for five years before the building went into foreclosure, “I was forced to hurry up and get out because the new owners were investors and wanted me out in 30 days. That’s when I sought help.” Soon after the new owners informed Leta that she had to vacate her apartment in 30 days she found Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

Patricia Fron, LCBH Building Programs Administrator explains, “We did foreclosure counseling and found that the building was sold through a short sale. We negotiated directly with the new owner to get Leta more time to stay while she searched for new housing. Leta also participated in the Housing Choice Voucher program and we worked with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to make sure she did not lose her voucher.”

“Patricia really got the ball rolling and was really there for me,” says Leta. “She listened to my story and told me the things I needed to do. A lot of people were not accepting Housing Choice Vouchers and I was fairly new to the voucher program so I thought I was doing the right thing by being upfront with landlords.” Even with the help of LCBH, 35 out of 45 landlords turned Leta down because of her voucher and it took her months to secure new housing.