Blog: Chicago Housing Justice League

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.

While much of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing’s (LCBH) recent work has focused on preventing evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, reminders of a previous housing crisis that placed tenants in peril came roaring back this spring. In late April, an adverse court decision struck down the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). Thanks to the collective action of LCBH, Communities United (CU), and First Ward Alderman Daniel LaSpata, the City Council passed a revised and improved KCRO on July 21st. This urgent response rested on the likelihood that large numbers of tenants may once again face eviction due to building owners being unable to pay their mortgage.

The KCRO was originally passed in 2013 after years of advocacy by LCBH and community partners responding to the housing crisis that began in the late 2000s. For several years following the housing crash, tenants living in foreclosed buildings were left in legal limbo, often unable to pay rent to the original owner while knowing next to nothing about the fate of the building and any potential new owners. In those circumstances, many renters were evicted from their homes or were not extended new leases by new ownership, leading many to heightened housing instability thereafter.

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) is committed to addressing systemic racism and its toll on communities of color. Recently, LCBH supported the Chicago Housing Justice League (CHJL) to submit a grant to the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund. The Fund is a collaboration between thirteen Chicago area foundations that pledged to raise and move $3M to community organizations building and sustaining movements for justice. In January, the CHJL was awarded a $40,000 grant to hire a program coordinator and create a sound leadership structure to sustain its programmatic work.

The Chicago Housing Justice League consists of 37 community organizations dedicated to promoting just housing policies and programs in the City of Chicago. Since its inception in 2018, the League’s work has primarily been supported by LCBH providing in-kind contributions to its development and maintenance. The CHJL recently hired Annie Howard as its first ever program coordinator. With Annie on board, the CJHL and its members will advance its mission even farther. Annie will oversee the administrative and programmatic activities of CHJL, which will build the League’s capacity, create a sound leadership structure, and sustain its programmatic work.

In December, LCBH partnered with the Chicago Housing Justice League (CHJL) to submit a grant through the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund (the Fund), a commitment from thirteen foundations to raise and move $3M to Chicago organizations building and sustaining movements for justice that center Black lives and address anti-Blackness. In January, LCBH and CHJL were notified that the application had been awarded. In 2021, LCBH will serve as the fiscal sponsor and the CHJL will be awarded $40,000 to continue their work of bringing multiple organizing and advocacy groups together to fight for real changes for housing and racial justice and support the adoption and implementation of people-first policies and programs that improve and stabilize majority Black or Latinx neighborhoods so families can thrive.

Since its inception, the League has been supported through in-kind contributions of time, meeting space, supplies and resources from its member organizations, with LCBH providing considerable voluntary contributions to its development and maintenance. The CHJL has been able to accomplish many things using this model, but the League and its members will benefit greatly from a dedicated Program Coordinator. This new funding will be put towards hiring a staffer to oversee the administrative and programmatic activities of CHJL, which will build the League’s capacity, create a sound leadership structure, and sustain its programmatic work.