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.

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.