Blog: Right to Council

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.

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.

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) today announced it will receive a $7.1 million three-year grant from the City of Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) to represent tenants in eviction court. LCBH, and its 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 is part of a three-year, $8 million, Right to Counsel Pilot Program (RTC). The program recognizes that one of the leading interventions to preventing evictions is providing legal assistance to at-risk tenants. When renters face the loss of their home in housing court, legal representation makes a critical difference. In eviction lawsuits nationwide, an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do. Unrepresented renters are much more likely to lose their cases, and their homes, regardless of the merits of their case.

Mayor's Poverty Summit

I had the privilege to attend Mayor Lightfoot's Chicago Solutions Towards Ending Poverty (STEP) Summit on February 20, 2020. The Summit convened academics, researchers, artists, grassroots community activists, business leaders, and government officials to launch a year-long movement to address poverty and economic hardship affecting Chicago residents. Among the many thoughtful panel discussions, a few remarks stood out to me. Dr. Luke Shaefer, from the University of Michigan, stated, "we can also intervene to make sure people have more money so that they can pay more of their rent." LCBH couldn’t agree more!

One of the key findings our Chicago Evictions Data Portal revealed is that 82% of Chicago eviction cases filed in 2010-17 made claims for back rent. In 18%, the rent owed was less than $1,000, and an additional 44% were under $2,500. LCBH's new Court-Based Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program provides eligible Chicago renters with supportive services, free legal aid, and access to State Homelessness Prevention Funds—up to $5,000—for back rent and or security deposits as a means of resolving unpaid rent claims.

Sally Robinson and Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr.

After a somewhat lengthy process, our newest staff attorney Sally Robinson was recently sworn in to practice here in Illinois.

Sally joined LCBH in May after moving to Chicago from New York City, where she held staff attorney and supervisory positions as a tenant-side housing advocate. Most recently, she was a managing attorney in housing at Legal Services of New York City, an organization that saw unprecedented growth in the wake of the New York passage of right to counsel for housing cases.

That experience is proving extremely beneficial. While waiting out the admittance process, in addition to her supervised assistance in eviction defense cases, Sally has been involved in LCBH’s advocacy work around Right to Counsel and Just Cause.

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

Hello!

I'm pleased to share that policy recommendations from LCBH's Chicago Evictions data portal launch event last May have led to several notable results:

  • LCBH will be an All Chicago Emergency Fund grantee, allowing the Eviction Diversion Program to expand and keep more renters housed.
  • The Chicago Reporter fully endorsed our recommendations.
  • Right to Counsel advocacy efforts are taking shape with our community partners.

You'll learn more about each of these when you attend the 39th Annual Bringing Justice Home Fall Networking and Awards event on Monday, November 4. I'm grateful to LCBH's Young Professionals Board for their hard work - this evening is one of my favorites. Get your ticket today and save $10.

An exciting addition this year is our inaugural Sharon L. King Distinguished Alumni Award presentation. So many dedicated individuals do and have done the front line work with individuals facing eviction in Chicago. Learn more about this award and nominate an LCBH "alum" who deserves recognition.