Statement on Chicago's Quarterly Progress on 5-Year Housing Plan

Mark Swartz, LCBH’s Executive Director, speaks at The City of Chicago’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate

The City of Chicago’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate met today. The agenda included a quarterly progress report on the Department of Housing’s 5-year housing plan. Mark Swartz, LCBH’s Executive Director, provided the following statement on Chicago’s ongoing eviction problem:

Good Afternoon. My name is Mark Swartz and I am the Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

As we embark upon the new 5-year Housing Plan, I want to address the topic of eviction both as a driver of displacement of our most vulnerable citizens as well a threat to the Plan’s principals of diversity and equity between and among our communities. I also want to share with you a resource that LCBH designed to help understand Chicago’s eviction landscape.

On May 16 of this year, LCBH launched the Chicago Evictions data portal along with a series of 3 reports highlighting some of the impacts eviction has had on the City. The data show that since 2010, on average, there have been just over 23,000 evictions in Chicago each year – that’s about 1 in 25 renters and their families each year who are facing eviction.

The Chicago Evictions data portal provides quite an extensive set of data on evictions in Chicago for the years from 2010 to 2017 – and we will be adding data on 2018 later this summer. The portal not only provides data on Chicago as a whole, but provides data at the Community Area level and Ward level.

The 3 accompanying summary reports provide context, stories, and recommendations. I will not go into the recommendations here, but you can find them on our website.

  • The first report focuses on the general scope of the eviction problem in Chicago and neighborhood racial disparities. One finding is that that the eviction filing rate is 4 times higher in African American neighborhoods than predominantly White neighborhoods.
  • Our second report explores the most common reason for eviction: non-payment of rent. Over 80% of evictions had a claim for rent and almost two thirds of those cases were for relatively small amounts of money, with 18% for less than $1,000 and an additional 44% for under $2,500.
  • Our third report in this initial series looks into the impact attorneys have on eviction outcomes. Of great concern is the disparity in rates of representation. 79% of landlords had attorneys, while only 11% of tenants did. This is not a fair way to determine who gets to stay in their homes. Without an attorney, the likelihood that an eviction order will be entered against a tenant is about 62%; with an attorney, it’s about 45%. With a legal aid attorney an eviction order is entered only 22% of the time.

We’ve shared copies of the 3 reports with Alderman’s offices and we are looking forward to working with Aldermanic offices as you develop plans for implementing the City’s new 5-year plan. I would like to impress upon you that we need to recognize and account for eviction’s role in reproducing the inequity we are trying to ameliorate. Additionally, as we look to create more housing opportunity for lower income renters in Chicago, we also need to enact policies to allow renters the opportunity to stay in the homes they currently live in rather than have them move, and have them move into an increasingly unaffordable rental market.

Thank you for your time.