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.
On May 17, Governor Pritzker signed Illinois' "COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act," providing robust protections for Illinois renters and homeowners. The new state law greatly expands sealing of eviction court records for cases filed before and during the coronavirus pandemic and prohibits tenant screening companies from reporting sealed eviction records.
COVID-19 and related shut-down orders have created economic instability for many renters through no fault of their own. The sealing provisions are meant to prevent eviction case filings from becoming a barrier for renters in obtaining future housing, as described in a recent Consumer Reports article. The law requires automatic sealing of eviction records between March 2020 and March 2022. Unsealing will be allowed only when a judgment is issued and a case is unrelated to nonpayment of rent.
LCBH is grateful for the dedicated leaders who serve on our Board of Directors, volunteering their time, energy and resources to lead the organization during periods of growth and change. Many thanks to our outgoing Board Member Taft West, who has contributed so much to the organization.
We would like to thank Taft for his remarkable service! Taft is stepping away from being a board member to enjoy retirement. We recently sat down with Taft to learn about his experience serving on the LCBH Board of Directors.
Where did you work prior to board membership?
I have been fortunate to spend my entire career working in affordable housing. I started working for Draper and Kramer in 1979 as an Assistant Manager trainee, helping with the development of Dearborn Park. I managed over 2,000 apartments and 30 commercial units, which were some of their largest properties and condos, including Lake Meadows. This responsibility prepared me for my transition to Rockford, Illinois, where I managed the Rockford Housing Authority for five years. After receiving my real estate license in 2008, I started teaching classes on fair and affordable housing, marketing, maintenance, housing choice vouchers, and landlord tenant ordinances at the Chicago Association of Realtors.
We are excited to welcome Colin Cordes as a new LCBH Board Member. Colin brings years of experience in finance and healthcare to the organization. He is excited to use his robust business background to help LCBH to identify opportunities to expand. We recently sat down with Colin to learn what drew him to pursue board service with LCBH.
How were you connected with LCBH?
I found out about LCBH through an organization called Board Lead that matches people interested in community service with nonprofits that need additional board members. Board Lead teaches you how boards operate and prepares you for various responsibilities, roles and opportunities to lend your input. LCBH liked my profile. I talked with a few staff and board members and I was ready to join.
What have you done prior to working with LCBH?
My background is in business. I have bachelor’s degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University, and a master’s degree in public health from University of Missouri. I’ve worked for four different companies in healthcare consulting, mainly working in IT. A lot of my work focused on providing and implementing best solutions and strategizing and sorting through financial touchpoints between patients and providers. I currently work for Olive AI, where automation is key. Our goal is to make healthcare cost effective and smoother for everyone involved.
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.
Interested in doing more to support Fair Housing and LCBH Alumnus Patricia Fron’s work?
LCBH and CAFHA are among the lead organizers in the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing, formed to add "Source of Income" as a type of discrimination to the Illinois Human Rights Act (HB 2755)(Ford). Prohibition against Source of Income discrimination protects tenants who pay their rent with funds from Social Security, child support, Veteran’s benefits, and Housing Choice Vouchers. This bill would assist approximately 99,000 Housing Choice Voucher participants and more than 575,000 households earning non-wage income such as SSI, SSDI, TANF, or child support in Illinois (outside of Cook County). The Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly known as "Section 8"), is HUD’s largest program to help tenants with low incomes pay their rent. Unlike other subsidized housing, the voucher program holds the promise of not just making housing affordable – it can be a tool for social and economic mobility for tenants. Unfortunately, discrimination against voucher-holders is rampant, denying the social mobility promise of the voucher program and sometimes even causing tenants to lose their vouchers. For more information and to help us get this bill passed, visit: https://www.housingchoicepartners.org/soi-campaign.
Patricia currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA), where she jointly leads lead the organization’s membership programming, policy and advocacy initiatives, and fair housing training and technical assistance programming. CAFHA combats housing discrimination and promotes equitable place-based opportunity through education, advocacy, and collaborative action. Patricia was awarded the Barbra Grau Outstanding Housing Advocate award in 2019 for her and CAFHA’s work on the Just Housing Amendment.
How did you first get involved with LCBH?
I first came on in 2010 to assist with the Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Project. During my 5-year employment with LCBH, my position evolved and I worked in several different programs including developing a renewed Policy & Advocacy Program.
I can't believe a year has zipped past since LCBH's office closed to the public. The expression that parents often share, "the days are long, but the years fly by," acutely resonates with me as I try to work remotely and struggle to get much of anything done. I know I speak for many here at LCBH about how hard the year has been, especially for parents with small children. I keep reminding myself of how lucky we are at LCBH to be able to do our work remotely. Still, I am relieved that as legal aid providers, we qualify as Phase 1C Essential Workers and can now get in line to be vaccinated, a critical step to returning to the physical office.
April is Fair Housing month. While fair housing often conjures thoughts of eliminating discrimination in the context of purchasing a home— as well it should, given Chicago's history of redlining and deed restrictions— I am mindful of the racial disparities we see in eviction court daily, and how this also raises fair housing alarms. I often come back to this Matthew Desmond quote from his 2013 article, Evicting Children: "Policymakers interested in identifying and sanctioning discrimination … should focus not only on the front end of the housing process—the freedom to obtain housing anywhere—but also on the back end: the freedom to maintain housing anywhere."
While many assume evictions are not an issue for Chicagoans right now due federal and state evictions moratoria, the reality is quite different. Last December, Legal Director Michelle Gilbert interviewed LCBH client Graciela Wade, who generously shared her experience of eviction during the pandemic.
Miss Wade, a 65-year-old Chicagoan, previously lived on a fixed income with her granddaughter and her girlfriend. When her granddaughter and her girlfriend both lost their jobs this past July, it became very difficult for Miss Wade to keep up with monthly rental payments. Due to Miss Wade’s severe health issues, finding another accessible apartment that meets her needs is a difficult task. Despite this knowledge about her tenant, Miss Wade’s landlord declined her proposal to continue to try to pay as much of the rent as she could each month to stay in the apartment. In addition, the landlord refused to make any repairs needed in the apartment. Shortly after, Miss Wade was presented with an official eviction notice. She appeared in court over Zoom for the first time in November 2020, and the case was ultimately extended into February. In the meantime, Miss Wade was referred to LCBH, where volunteer attorneys from the COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Project (EPP) worked on her case. This past week, Legal Director Michelle Gilbert was able to dismiss Miss Wade’s case and seal her file. Today, Miss Wade is stably housed.
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.
"The landlord cut off my lights and heat and forced me to move," says Auburn Gresham resident Tamy, "It was the day after my birthday." Tamy, a client of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH), is one of many renters who despite Governor JB Pritzker’s eviction moratorium have experienced an illegal lockout or unlawful eviction.
At a virtual town hall forum on Thursday, December 17, LCBH announced a new report, "Eviction Filings, Unemployment, and the Impact of COVID 19," in partnership with Loyola University Chicago's Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL). The report uses statistical modeling of the historical relationship between unemployment and eviction filings to address concerns about a possible wave of eviction filings due to COVID-19. Chicago may see as many as 21,000 formal evictions in the first month after the moratorium is lifted, according to the model. For comparison, prior to the health crisis, the average number of eviction filings the first two months of 2020 was 1,567. The forum also discussed informal evictions and the much larger number of renters at-risk of displacement due to COVID-19.