Legislative Victories and Budget Progress Point the Way Forward

The General Assembly completed this year’s session on May 31. Housing Action is glad to say that our legislative successes included three bills we advocated for being sent to Governor Rauner for his consideration, and we expect he will sign all of them into law. We will continue working on other bills that did not pass this year.

The fiscal year 2019 state budget was passed by the General Assembly with much less divisive partisanship and delays than during the previous three fiscal years—a change that is much welcome to promote stability and growth in our state. Working with our partners, we helped secure some modest budget increases for programs that help expand affordable housing and end homelessness. Governor Rauner released a statement that he will enact the budget into law.

Thanks to all our members and allies, more than thirty in all, who worked with us on these issues by contacting their legislators, participating in one of our working groups, and sharing the stories of their work and the people they serve to move our advocacy agenda forward.

See below for a summary of the key housing issues we worked on with our allies.

State Legislative Victories

Protect Children by Updating Illinois’ Lead Poisoning Definition to Meet CDC Standard 

Senate Chief Sponsor: Jacqueline Collins; House Chief Sponsor: Kathleen Willis

SB 2996 directs the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to propose updated state rules no later than 180 days after the effective date of this legislation so that the definition of elevated blood lead level for children is in accordance with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reference value. The CDC standard was last updated in 2012 and is currently set at a blood lead level of 5 μg/dL (“micrograms per deciliter”).

Current State of Illinois rules for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act define permissible limits for an elevated blood lead level in children that is twice as high as what is recommended by the CDC. Therefore, despite proven exposure to an environmental neurotoxin, thousands of Illinois children with lead poisoning are occupying housing and child care facilities that do not undergo a mandatory inspection. SB 2996 also directs IDPH to update the current requirements for the inspection of regulated facilities occupied by children based on the updated definition of elevated blood lead level or the history of lead hazards.

Passing this bill positions Illinois as a leader in preventing lead poisoning. Illinois will join Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey as the first states to adopt to the CDC standard.

We partnered with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and others to pass this legislation. See our fact sheet for more information.

Clarify 2017 Changes to Security Deposit Return Act 

House Chief Sponsor: Mike Halpin; Senator Chief Sponsor: Kwame Raoul

HB 4951 clarifies that potential deductions from a security deposit be reasonable and for damage beyond normal wear and tear. The bill addresses concerns by tenant advocates that the recent change in state law could be used by landlords to make deductions from security deposits for ordinary wear and tear, inflate the cost of damages and/or use security deposits to improve the rental unit beyond the condition of the unit at the time the lease began. Low-income tenants often rely on the return of their security deposit to help them cover the cost of moving and securing their next apartment. We partnered with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to pass this bill. See our fact sheet for more information.

Applicants Have a Right to Know their Public Housing Waiting List Status 

Senate Chief Sponsor: Laura Murphy; House Chief Sponsor: Marty Moylan

SB 3081 is meant to ensure that people who have applied to a Public Housing Authority (PHA) for housing—either a public housing unit and/or a Housing Choice Voucher—can find out their status on the waiting list, so that they can plan other parts of their life accordingly. Waiting lists can be months or years long. Knowing whether you are close to the top of the list or not may impact other life decisions, such as whether to move to a new town or not. The bill amends the Housing Authorities Act to state that upon request by an applicant the Housing Authority shall provide the applicant with information on that applicant’s position on the waiting list within 10 business days. Most PHAs already have procedures to follow for people to inquire regarding the waiting list status. However, others do not. SB 3081 is meant to address past instances of people who have had trouble getting information about their waiting list status, so this won’t be an issue in the future. We partnered with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to pass this bill. See our fact sheet for more information.

State Legislation We Will Continue Working On

Although these bills did not pass, we will continue working on them: (1) expanding opportunities to seal eviction records when there is no judgment against the tenant (HB 4760); (2) increasing opportunities for nonprofits to operate resale programs for homeowners at risk of foreclosure (SB 2894); and (3) establishing a property tax incentive that is a cost-effective solution to create and preserve affordable rental homes (HB 5865). 

Other Positive Housing-Related Legislation That Passed

The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act 

Senate Sponsor: Cristina Castro; House Sponsor: Theresa Mah

SB 3103 creates the Immigration Tenant Protection Act, which makes it illegal for a landlord, unless required by law or court order, to threaten to disclose or actually disclose information regarding or relating to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant to any person, entity, or any immigration or law enforcement agency with the intent of harassing or intimidating or retaliating against the tenant. Unless required by law or court order, it will also be illegal to bring an action to recover possession of a dwelling unit based solely or in part on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant. Amends Illinois’ eviction law to create an affirmative defense for retaliation on the basis of immigration status. Thanks to MALDEF, Latino Policy Forum and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and others for their work on this bill.

State Budget Progress

There was a well-deserved $1 million increase for the Emergency and Transitional Housing Program, resulting in total funding of $10,383,700 after many years of flat funding. This will allow the 91 nonprofits that operate the program to address increasing operating costs and/or serve additional people. There was also a $450,000 increase for the Homeless Youth Program, resulting in total funding of $5,005,000, which serves unaccompanied youth who are 14 to 23 years of age and lack safe and stable housing.

The budget doesn’t include some additional crucial increases we and our partners were advocating for, including additional funding for homelessness prevention and supportive housing. We will continue our work to secure these increases in subsequent budgets.

Overall, the state’s operating budget for FY 19 will be $38.5 billion, a $600 million increase over the current budget. The increase is primarily for education funding increases and making required pension payments. There is bipartisan agreement that the FY19 budget is balanced based on anticipated revenues. One major shortfall of the budget is that it does not appropriate a significant amount of money to pay off overdue bills, currently about $6.6 billion. This makes the case that we still need additional revenue to adequately fund programs that meet basic human needs and eliminate pressure for budget cuts in the future.

See our fact sheet for more information on budget priorities.

Fair Tax Campaign Progress

We are glad that 61 members of the Illinois House voted for a non-binding resolution in support of a Fair Tax, HR 1025, on May 29. Passing this resolution in support of a progressive income tax is a step in the right direction and demonstrates why we need a Fair Tax for Illinois

Unfortunately, the resolution that would have allowed voters to decide whether we should amend our state constitution to eliminate the requirement that we have a flat income tax was not called for a vote. This means a referendum question will not be on the ballot in November. Please thank House members who voted in support of HR1025. We will continue to work to build support for a Fair Tax with the Responsible Budget Coalition.