Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program

Substandard housing conditions jeopardize the health, safety, and welfare of renters and the public.
Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program

To date, Chicago has had a “complaint-based” housing code program. Inspections and enforcement are largely driven by tenant complaints. This places the tenant in the position of the “bad guy.” Ratting-out the landlord to the City Department of Buildings when the conditions become intolerable frequently results in spoiling the relationship with the landlord, retaliatory rent increases and, typically, eviction. Renters move from one problem building to another, exposing children, the disabled, and the elderly to a wide variety of unhealthy, costly conditions: mold, lead, bed bugs, roaches, rats, disrepair in major structural systems (electrical, plumbing, heating), high rates of asthma, school and work absenteeism. There is little incentive for landlords to put and keep buildings in safe, habitable condition. Buildings deteriorate and neighborhoods decline; making them easy prey for tax foreclosures, mortgage foreclosures, abandonment, racial and economic isolation, or gentrification. In a 2013 report, “The National State of the Nation’s Healthy Housing,” completed by the National Center for Healthy Housing, the Chicago metropolitan area ranked 29th out of 45 large urban areas. Its previous ranking was 11th, suggesting that the area’s stock of healthy housing is deteriorating. Fortunately, Chicago will not be the first to adopt a proactive rental inspection program. Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Sacramento, Kansas City, and a number of other cities have gone before us.