Housing instability is not merely a symptom of poverty; as illustrated by Matthew Desmond’s 2016 book Evicted, it is a cause. Over 60% of Chicago’s housing stock is rental units, and in 2016 there were upwards of 25,000 evictions filed in the city. The unstable nature of housing in Chicago doesn’t just perpetuate the cycle of poverty amongst low and moderate-income individuals and families—it degrades the integrity of communities as a whole.
This is where LCBH comes in. The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) was founded in 1980 on the notion that housing is a human right. For the past 36 years, LCBH has provided free legal and supportive services to low-income renters in the Chicagoland area to ensure that safe, decent, stable, and affordable housing is accessible to all.
Through our legal services, supportive services, and community and legislative advocacy, LCBH uses a holistic approach to address the problem of housing instability on an individual and community level. Our Legal Team provides free services to renters facing a myriad of housing issues, from unsafe building conditions to eviction. Our Supportive Services team works with clients to find alternative housing and connect them to resources pertinent to their unique situations. LCBH also operates the Tenants in Foreclosure helpline and provides renters’ rights trainings, so that renters are empowered and better equipped to advocate for themselves.
Additionally, LCBH launched the Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) in late 2015 in collaboration with Loretto Hospital and PCC Community Wellness Center in the Austin neighborhood. The MLP works with medical teams to help identify renters living in unhealthy environments. Bye integrating legal representation into the patient’s continuum of care, LCBH’s legal response becomes one of early intervention and prevention.
In this vein, LCBH’s legislative and community advocacy aims to keep renters in their homes, in healthy conditions and at affordable rates. Indeed, in response to the effect of the foreclosure crisis on renters, LCBH was instrumental in the creation of the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly referred to as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). The ordinance, which was passed back in 2013, works to promote housing stability and affordability for renters. LCBH continues to advocate for policies that comprehensively address the current housing crisis.
Looking ahead, LCBH will continue advocating for and empowering renters, and working with community organizations to promote the value of healthy, vibrant, and stable communities.
— Antje Lang, AmeriCorps VISTA at Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing