Mark's Musings – April 2022 Edition

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

The last two years have been difficult. Like many of you, I’ve found working remotely and being separated from my colleagues challenging. But as I sit here today, I must say that April 2022 has been one of the most momentous months in my 13-year tenure at LCBH. Several developments have lifted my spirits and they are made even sweeter arriving during Fair Housing Month.

First, Governor Pritzker is poised to sign legislation that will prohibit landlords from refusing to rent based on a tenant’s source of income. While this protection already exists for Chicago renters, this is a fundamental fair housing issue that deserves statewide enforcement. LCBH is proud to be a member of the Illinois Fair Housing Coalition that worked on the legislation. We celebrate the Chicago Fair Housing Alliance and multiple elected officials whose leadership made this victory possible.

Second, LCBH, Communities United, and other partners have been busy since the start of 2022 conducting eviction sealing clinics for Chicago renters. As you may recall, Governor Pritzker’s response to COVID-19 included legislation requiring all evictions over the COVID period to be filed under seal. While these protections expired last month, the law also makes it easier for tenants to seal old eviction cases, but only until July 31st when that part of the law sunsets. In response, LCBH has been racing to train up pro bono attorneys and law students to assist tenants with preparing and filing motions to seal their old eviction records. Initially, the clinics were virtual, but we now have in-person clinics scheduled through June, with more to come. The response has been overwhelming—we had 500 tenants on a wait list for an April 12th clinic hosted by DePaul University Law School. We need more volunteers to respond to the demand. Shiva Kooragayala, a volunteer attorney from Skadden, explains why sealing is important and the impact that volunteers can have here.

Finally, I’m delighted to share news that another LCBH policy initiative is also moving forward. On April 4th the city of Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) announced that LCBH will receive a three-year, $7.1 million Right to Counsel Pilot Project grant. LCBH, and our partners Legal Aid Chicago and CARPLS, will provide brief advice and full legal representation at no cost to eligible low-income tenants at risk of eviction in Chicago. The grant will require LCBH to expand our staff greatly. We are actively recruiting attorneys to join our team. Please visit LCBH’s jobs page to learn more about our openings.

I hope that warmer weather is bringing you reasons to be optimistic about the future. Thank you for supporting LCBH’s work. I hope to you see in person again very soon.