The Illinois General Assembly convened in Springfield for a lame duck session from January 8–13. Most of the legislative activity focused on the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda, which was focused on dismantling systemic racism.

Among the many important parts of the agenda that were passed, at least two directly impact housing and homelessness:

  • The Public Housing Access Bill creates standards for Illinois Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to use in the criminal background screening process, improving equity and access to affordable housing for individuals with criminal records. The bill limits PHAs from considering non-convictions, expunged or sealed records, and juvenile records; shortens look-back periods; and provides applicants with an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances before being denied because of their background.
    This is an initiative of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI).
  • The Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (IL CRA) will help ensure that state-regulated financial institutions better meet the needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, including areas where there is a lack of access to banking and lending services. The IL CRA compliments the federal Community Reinvestment Act by providing oversight for state regulated financial institutions not covered by the federal CRA, including state charted banks, savings banks, credit unions and larger residential mortgage brokers. The IL CRA will improve access to credit for communities of color in urban and suburban areas, as well as for rural communities that often also feel the deficit of investment.
    This is an initiative of the Woodstock Institute and Housing Action Illinois.

Both of these bills were included in the economic equity pillar of omnibus legislation championed by the Black Caucus, which successfully passed many of their priorities related to three of their four pillars: education, criminal justice, and economic equity. Different versions of the health care pillar passed in the House and Senate, so I unlike the other bills, those won’t go to Governor Pritzker for his consideration.

Our partners at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless wrote a concise wrap-up of some of the other good things that happened during lame duck session, including passage of:

  •  The Pretrial Fairness Act, which reforms the criminal legal system for people awaiting trial and ends the use of money bond; and
  • The Predatory Loan Prevention Act, which implements a 36 percent interest rate cap on consumer loans, including payday and car title loans.

We were disappointed that a key initiative for Housing Action Illinois, the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act, did not pass during the lame duck session. The bill passed the House, with bipartisan support. However, the Senate did not act on the bill before they adjourned. Housing Action Illinois, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and our partners will keep working with Representative Delia Ramirez, Representative Lindsey LaPointe, Senator Robert Peters, Senator Ram Villivalam and our supporters in the House and Senate to pass the eviction sealing and other provisions of the legislation as soon as possible in 2021. Representative Ramirez released a statement to this end after the conclusion of the session.

Legislation that passed during the lame duck session will be sent to Governor JB Pritzker for his consideration. We encourage him to sign legislation regarding the provisions summarized above into law.

New Speaker of the House

While in session, the Illinois House of Representatives selected a new Speaker of the House, Representative Chris Welch. The outgoing Speaker, Mike Madigan, has held the position for nearly four decades. Representative Welch is the first Black legislator elected as Illinois Speaker of the House. Housing Action Illinois congratulates Speaker Welch and looks forward to working together.

Our thanks to our allies and supporters for your advocacy efforts during this whirlwind session!