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.
We have started assessing this year's progress and thinking about what's ahead in 2020, our 40th anniversary as an organization. There's much of which to be proud and yet, new goals in housing justice will require considerable strategy, collaboration and coordination.
Celebrating accomplishments began on Monday, November 4 at our 39th Annual Bringing Justice Home event. At a gathering of LCBH’s staff, alumni, volunteers and friends, we recognized Emily Coffey, a former LCBH Loyola Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Intern and then Fellow, now at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, with the inaugural Sharon L. King Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as our friends at DLA Piper LLP, who were selected for the Pro Bono Service Award. It was a terrific night, hosted by our friends at Kirkland & Ellis.
Did you know that Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing was founded in 1980 by a group of attorneys in the Rogers Park neighborhood to combat deteriorating conditions in multi-family buildings?
As LCBH approaches our 40th anniversary as an organization, we are gathering stories from former and current staff, legal volunteers, and organizational friends.
How have the avenues of pursuing safe, affordable housing for Chicagoans evolved while you’ve been part of LCBH? What were the roadblocks you encountered and key victories achieved? Who was involved in shaping housing justice efforts with you?
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.
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.
We are pleased to share that Carl Sessions, a recent graduate of ITT Chicago-Kent School of Law, has returned to LCBH as an Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellow, sponsored by the Rossotti Family Foundation.
During two student volunteer stints with LCBH, Carl saw firsthand the inequities of representations in eviction court.
A key finding from LCBH’s Chicago Evictions data portal has revealed that 79% of landlords appeared with legal counsel though only 11% of tenants were represented.
More importantly, Carl witnessed improved outcomes for tenants that LCBH was able to assist.
"The truth comes out when you have advocates with equal skills on both sides of a case," Carl shares.
Based on these observations as well as the desire to combine his legal interests with community organizing and mobilization, Carl developed a fellowship project that serves two functions:
During her TFA training, Kaitlin explored the historical causes of student achievement gaps, with access to housing as an important contributing factor. Her efforts as a LCBH law student volunteer further connected those dots.
"My understanding of student displacement and how it disrupts a child’s education solidified here at LCBH," Kaitlin shares.
With the help of our staff, she created her EJW project proposal to develop a school-based clinic that offers housing-focused legal aid with the help of pro bono volunteers.
Kaitlin hopes to reach out to schools in the Austin and South Shore neighborhoods, two areas of Chicago with high rates of eviction as well as rising housing costs, although any school with high risk of student displacement would be a potential candidate.
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.
On May 16, 2019 we held a community forum at Austin Town Hall Park to release our Chicago Evictions data portal that analyzes eviction court records filed during the calendar years of 2010-2017 with the Circuit Court of Cook County. Our guest speakers were Deborah Bennett (Polk Bros. Foundation), Taft West (Chicago Community Loan Fund), Peter Rosenblatt Ph.D (Loyola University), Diane Limas (Communities United), Frank Avellone (LCBH), and Anthony Simpkins (Chicago Dept. of Planning & Development). If you were not able to attend – or if you were there and want to revisit some of the insights and recommendations our panelists shared — you can now view the full forum on YouTube!
LCBH's new Chicago Evictions data portal, https://eviction.lcbh.org, was released Thursday, May 16, before some 200 supporters of the organization, advocates, policymakers, and others at Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W. Lake St. Based on Chicago residential eviction court records filed during the calendar years of 2010-2017 with the Circuit Court of Cook County, the portal’s unveiling was supported by a grant from Polk Bros. Foundation.
"Being in eviction court has consequences way beyond losing an apartment," says Mark Swartz, executive director of LCBH, the only legal aid agency in the Chicago area advocating solely for renters since 1980. "Our data highlight a series of problems we must solve if the city is to have decent, fair and affordable housing – and help point the way toward some of those solutions, as well."
One example of a consequence is that eviction filings make it difficult for tenants to find a new apartment even if the filing does not result in eviction, due to the way tenant screening services currently use eviction filing data.
The vast majority of tenants appear in eviction court without legal counsel. They often feel pressured to sign agreements, including agreed eviction orders, which offer them little benefit, and contain terminology they don't understand.These agreed orders or settlements may have far-reaching impact on tenants’ credit, ability to receive public housing assistance, or ability to rent in the future—but renters may not be aware of those potential impacts when they agree to a settlement.
LCBH has teamed up with LAF and DLA Piper to provide brief legal services through the Eviction Brief Advice Desk (EBAD) to help tenants currently facing eviction. Located at the Daley Center, the EBAD advises pro se renters on how to best advocate for themselves in court, and helps them resolve their case as successfully as possible, ideally avoiding an eviction order or getting the record sealed.
In its first year, the EBAD served 64 tenant families, providing advice, preparing pro se documents (e.g. settlement agreements, continuances, motions to vacate, appearances/jury demand); and negotiating deals with pro se landlords and opposing counsel.