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.
Interested in doing more to support Fair Housing and LCBH Alumnus Patricia Fron’s work?
LCBH and CAFHA are among the lead organizers in the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing, formed to add "Source of Income" as a type of discrimination to the Illinois Human Rights Act (HB 2755)(Ford). Prohibition against Source of Income discrimination protects tenants who pay their rent with funds from Social Security, child support, Veteran’s benefits, and Housing Choice Vouchers. This bill would assist approximately 99,000 Housing Choice Voucher participants and more than 575,000 households earning non-wage income such as SSI, SSDI, TANF, or child support in Illinois (outside of Cook County). The Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly known as "Section 8"), is HUD’s largest program to help tenants with low incomes pay their rent. Unlike other subsidized housing, the voucher program holds the promise of not just making housing affordable – it can be a tool for social and economic mobility for tenants. Unfortunately, discrimination against voucher-holders is rampant, denying the social mobility promise of the voucher program and sometimes even causing tenants to lose their vouchers. For more information and to help us get this bill passed, visit: https://www.housingchoicepartners.org/soi-campaign.
I can't believe a year has zipped past since LCBH's office closed to the public. The expression that parents often share, "the days are long, but the years fly by," acutely resonates with me as I try to work remotely and struggle to get much of anything done. I know I speak for many here at LCBH about how hard the year has been, especially for parents with small children. I keep reminding myself of how lucky we are at LCBH to be able to do our work remotely. Still, I am relieved that as legal aid providers, we qualify as Phase 1C Essential Workers and can now get in line to be vaccinated, a critical step to returning to the physical office.
April is Fair Housing month. While fair housing often conjures thoughts of eliminating discrimination in the context of purchasing a home— as well it should, given Chicago's history of redlining and deed restrictions— I am mindful of the racial disparities we see in eviction court daily, and how this also raises fair housing alarms. I often come back to this Matthew Desmond quote from his 2013 article, Evicting Children: "Policymakers interested in identifying and sanctioning discrimination … should focus not only on the front end of the housing process—the freedom to obtain housing anywhere—but also on the back end: the freedom to maintain housing anywhere."
I hope that you and your family had a happy month of February! The year has begun to ramp up for LCBH, and I’m pleased to share two critical updates:
The Just Housing Amendment (JHA) took effect on January 1, 2020. Before JHA, landlords could ask prospective renters about prior arrests and convictions and deny their application solely based on their criminal history. In many cases, this blanket form of discrimination leads to homelessness and family instability for returning citizens and their families who have served their time and pose no threat to personal safety or property.
LCBH is an Access to Justice Grantee. Access to Justice is a new statewide program administered by the Westside Justice Center and The Resurrection Project. It seeks to mitigate the devastating consequences of incarceration and family separation related to immigration on vulnerable communities by expanding effective and holistic community-based legal services.
Edna is a funny, vibrant single mother of three small children. For five years she provided a wonderful home for her family in a building where she a great relationship with her landlord and property manager. Having a stable, decent and affordable place to call home gave her a lot of comfort and gave her the ability to focus on her job and her kids. She was looking forward to many more years in a neighborhood she loved and in a school that was great for her kids. That is until one day, it all changed – her landlord lost the building, including her home, to foreclosure.
Thanks to the hard work of many Chicago advocates, including LCBH, Chicago now has an ordinance that helps to protect renters who are scooped up in the foreclosure process through no fault of their own. When a landlord loses an apartment building to foreclosure, the new owner must either offer to renew (or extend) the existing tenants’ lease or offer to give them relocation assistance. Edna was relieved that the new owner of her building was going to work with her to keep her in her home rather than evict her.
April, we come together as a community and a nation to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: to eliminate housing discrimination and create equal opportunity in every community.
Fundamentally, fair housing means that every person can live free. This means that our communities are open and welcoming, free from housing discrimination and hostility. But this also means that each one of us, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, has access to neighborhoods of opportunity, where our children can attend quality schools, our environment allows us to be healthy, and economic opportunities and self sufficiency can grow.
Our commitment to fair housing is a living commitment, one that reflects the needs of America today and prepares us for a future of true integration.
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.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) recently created a series of new Fair Housing webinars funded as a partnership project by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The series of webinars covers major fair housing issues and is designed to educate stakeholders and the general public about fair housing law under federal law as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act.
All the webinars are available as online videos that can be accessed at any time on the website of Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO). The webinars will educate the public on their fair housing rights and provide information for housing providers on their responsibilities under fair housing law. The topics include the housing rights laws for persons with disabilities, for LGBT individuals, for new Americans and immigrants, for condo and coop associations and a general fair housing overview. Three of the webinars are in both English and Spanish versions, and closed captioning is available.
A historic moment in county history and a victory for tenants and housing advocates! Last Wednesday, May 8, 2013, the Cook County Board voted to end the exclusion of Housing Choice Voucher holders—Section 8— from source of income protections in Cook County’s Human Rights Ordinance. Housing advocates and a few progressive county commissioners have been fighting for this amendment for almost 10 years.
Back in December, LCBH’s own Kathy Clark discussed housing voucher discrimination at length and highlighted what has been a lengthy struggle to extend protections for voucher holders throughout Cook County.
The vote was truly a victory, and a collaborative effort by sponsors of the amendment: Commissioners Garcia, Suffredin, and Steele and the core advocate groups: Open Communities, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Access Living, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, and Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA).
The Attorney of the Day (AOD) eviction defense team at LCBH recently represented Juan and Maria Salazar (not their real names) and their three small children. The family was being evicted from their apartment in South Chicago for alleged non-payment of rent. Maria is a woman from Mexico whose status in the U.S. is undocumented. Juan is a U.S. citizen, Maria is from Mexico and their three children are U.S.-born. The Salazars discovered that the utility meters in their two-unit building were arranged such that they were paying the electricity bill for the common areas of the building and garage, which is a violation of the Illinois Rental Property Utility Service Act.
The Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA) is a consortium of fair housing and advocacy organizations, government agencies, and municipalities committed to the value of fair housing, diversity, and integration. CAFHA works to combat housing discrimination and promote integrated communities of opportunity through research, education, and advocacy.
LCBH has a longstanding partnership with CAFHA; Kathy Clark, retired LCBH Executive Director, formerly served on the board and now current LCBH Executive Director, Cheryl Lawrence, serves as board treasurer. LCBH Buildings Administrator Patricia Fron worked for CAFHA as the John Lukehart Public Policy Fellow throughout 2012, where she and a team of several other CAFHA members published reports on housing issues including segregation, land banking, and voucher discrimination.
Recently, CAHFA has been in the midst of conducting a year-long research project, the culmination of which will be a regional analysis of impediments to fair housing which is due to be released in early 2013. Through this report CAFHA aims to highlight the fair housing issues prevalent in the region and develop strategies to mitigate the impact of segregation.