During the recent Illinois General Assembly session, we celebrated a number of key wins for affordable housing and homelessness. A new understanding of housing as healthcare and willingness to invest in access to stable, affordable homes brought together many allies, legislative sponsors, and co-sponsors to champion state investment in housing and long-needed policy changes.
Illinois legislators also committed significant federal funding from the American Rescue Plan—more than $114 million—toward urgent housing needs.
Below are key wins from Housing Action’s advocacy work and the hard work of our allies and partners. Please encourage Governor Pritzker to sign all the bills you care about into law.
Help us build on this momentum and create even more opportunities for Illinoisans to rent and buy stable, good, affordable homes:
Our Key Wins: Bills on Affordable Housing & Homelessness
Affordable Housing Omnibus (HB 2621)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Mattie Hunter
Key Advocates: Community Investment Corporation, Enterprise Community Partners, Housing Action Illinois, Illinois Housing Council, and Metropolitan Planning Council
This landmark bill creates new resources to finance the development of affordable rental housing and establishes property tax policies to support owners of rental housing to invest in their properties and keep rents affordable. It also strengthens existing state law requiring communities with very small stocks of affordable housing to develop plans to remedy this shortage. The legislation passed both the House and Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support.
Key provisions include:
- Creating a COVID-19 Affordable Housing Grant Program to support the construction and rehabilitation of affordable multifamily rental housing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Establishing a property tax assessment incentive to encourage owners of multifamily buildings with 7 or more units to invest in their properties and keep rents affordable.
- Strengthening the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act (AHPAA).
COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act (HB 2877)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Delia Ramirez and Sen. Omar Aquino
Key Advocates: Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Housing Action Illinois, and Shriver Center on Poverty Law
This hard-won legislation creates a strong set of protections for Illinoisans struggling to pay their rent or mortgages as a result of unprecedented economic instability caused by the pandemic.
Key provisions include:
- Codifying certain provisions of the federally-funded emergency rental assistance program to ensure that people with the lowest incomes and most severe housing needs can access federal rental assistance.
- Sealing of all eviction records between March 2020 and March 2022 upon filing and sealing certain older eviction records.
- Prohibiting tenant screening companies from disseminating a sealed eviction court record.
- Temporary COVID-19 emergency homeowner and small landlord foreclosure protections.
Rental Housing Support Program Eligibility (HB 648)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback and Sen. Mike Simmons
Key Advocates: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Housing Action Illinois
The Rental Housing Support Program provides rental assistance to extremely low income households, earning at or below 30% of local area median income (AMI). This bill will allow people earning up to 35% of AMI to maintain their subsidy, keeping still-vulnerable families from losing their housing. Those above 35% of AMI will start a 12-month transition period out of the program. Another program change acknowledges current good faith practices to provide rental homes with a range of bedroom sizes.
Installment Sales Contracts (SB 71)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. David Koehler and Rep. Daniel Didech
Key Advocates: Housing Action Illinois
While installment sales agreements for homes make sense under certain circumstances, some sellers of rent-to-own homes have a business model based on predatory practices that churn a series of buyers through unsustainable agreements that quickly lead to default. This bill clarifies that, in all cases, installment sales contracts in default are subject to foreclosure as long as 20% of the principal on the contract has been paid. If less than 20% has been paid, the contact is subject to eviction.
Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program Improvements (SB 2244)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Laura Murphy and Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin
Key Supporters: AARP, Center for Disability and Elder Law, and Housing Action Illinois
This bill will help seniors at risk of losing their home due to unpaid property taxes by making updates and improvements to the existing Senior Citizen Property Tax Deferral Program. The existing program allows qualified senior citizens to defer all or part of their property tax and special assessment payments on their principal residence. Deferred amounts are borrowed from the State of Illinois via the Department of Revenue, who then pays the tax bill to the county tax collector. Interest on the amount paid by the State accumulates and a lien is placed on the property for all deferred tax payments and interest. This bill changes the income limitation under the Act to $65,000 for tax years 2022 through 2025 (currently $55,000). It also ensures that, for tax years 2022 through 2025, the total amount of any such deferral can be as high as $7,500 per taxpayer in each tax year (currently $5,000).
Partner Wins: Celebrating Allies’ Accomplishments
Housing Action Illinois applauds the hard work of our allies on additional housing and homelessness legislation. Bills we’re celebrating that our partners worked on include:
Feminine Hygiene Products in Homeless Shelters (HB 310)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. LaToya Greenwood and Sen. Christopher Belt
This bill ensures that feminine hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners will be available free of charge at all homeless shelters that provide temporary housing assistance to women or youth.
Community Colleges and Affordable Housing (HB 374)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Nicholas Smith and Sen. Elgie Sims, Jr.
This legislation permits community colleges and housing authorities to develop affordable housing for community college students. It also permits non-exempt local governments to develop affordable housing for community college students in coordination with nonprofit affordable housing developers and housing authorities.
Housing is Recovery Pilot Program (HB 449)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Kathleen Willis and Sen. Cristina Castro
Key Advocates: Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition, including Thresholds, NAMI Chicago, NAMI Illinois and Legal Council for Health Justice
Thousands of people across the state with a serious mental illness or substance use disorder lack affordable housing, causing institutionalization, incarceration or overdose death. The Housing is Recovery Pilot Program creates a path to stability and recovery for a person with a serious mental illness or addiction living on the streets, and prevents incarceration, institutionalization and overdose death. Modeled on the Williams/Colbert Consent Decrees and using existing DHS program infrastructure, the program will provide a bridge rental subsidy paired with services, aligning with Medicaid where possible to maximize federal dollars. The program will also assist people in transitioning to federal housing assistance when it’s available. The legislation requires a program evaluation to determine effectiveness. The state budget committed $10 million for the program.
Delinquent Tax Repayment Loan Fund (HB 2614)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Eva Dina Delgado and Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas
Key Advocates: Northwest Side Housing Center
This legislation enables the Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program to establish a Delinquent Tax Repayment Loan Fund to provide low-interest emergency loans to eligible homeowners to help them pay their property taxes. This can happen if the fund is authorized by a referendum approved by a majority of the voters, or by resolution of the governing commission upon approval by two-thirds of the commissioners.
Property Tax Homestead Exemption/COVID-19 Renewal (HB 3289)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr. and Rep. John Connor
This bill allows each chief county assessment officer to approve a homestead exemption for the 2021 taxable year, without application, for any property that was approved for the exemption for the 2020 taxable year, if: (1) the county board has declared a local disaster as provided in the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act related to the COVID-19 public health emergency; (2) the owner of record of the property as of January 1, 2021 is the same as the owner of record of the property as of January 1, 2020; (3) the exemption for the 2020 taxable year has not been determined to be an erroneous exemption as defined by the Code; and (4) the taxpayer for the 2020 taxable year has not asked for the exemption to be removed for the 2020 or 2021 taxable years.
Lead Service Line Replacement (HB 3739)
Chief Sponsors: Rep. Lamont Robinson, Jr. and Sen. Melinda Bush
Key Advocates: Elevate Energy, Illinois Environmental Council and Metropolitan Planning Council
Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health effects in all age groups. In infants and children, lead impairs normal brain and nervous system development and increases learning and behavioral problems. For adults, lead increases risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney and nervous system problems. In Illinois, there are more than 686,000 known lead service lines and over 1 million potential additional lead service lines. The bill requires all water utilities in Illinois to find and replace every lead service line, prioritizing replacement in the most vulnerable communities. It sets feasible timelines for accomplishing the work, and it bans a dangerous practice known as partial lead service line replacement. Illinois will be only the second state to require replacement of all lead service lines.
Pets in Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund Properties (SB 154)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Linda Holmes and Rep. Stephanie Kifowit
Key Advocates: Best Friends Animal Society
This legislation ensures that a tenant of a multifamily rental housing unit (500 square feet or larger) that has been acquired, constructed, or rehabilitated with any money from the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund after January 1, 2022 and that was designated for affordable housing for low and very low-income families can keep at least 2 cats or one dog (under 50 pounds, regardless of breed or height) in accordance with any applicable State laws.
Higher Education Liaison for Students Experiencing Homelessness (SB 190)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton and Rep. Maurice A. West, II
Key Advocates: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Many students experiencing homelessness who enroll in higher education share similar stories of getting to college and feeling overwhelmed. In high school, they had a liaison who assisted with fee waivers, transportation, and pointed them to services in the community, but for most this does not exist at the college level. The bill creates a homeless liaison on college and university campuses, gives students experiencing homelessness priority in applying for on-campus housing, and makes housing available to students experiencing homelessness during breaks if housing is provided to certain others (e.g., athletes or international students). Universities and colleges will also be required to track data on the number of students experiencing homelessness on campus and their completion rates.
Affordable Utilities for All Families (SB 265)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Michael Hastings and Rep. Barbara Hernandez
Key Advocates: Power-PAC IL, National Consumer Law Center, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) and Illinois PIRG
This bill creates new discount rates for low and moderate income customers who struggle to afford monthly utility services, with discounts tiered relative to income. It requires more customer outreach to connect residents with bill payment assistance programs like PIPP and LIHEAP, rather than incentivizing utilities to use disconnections as a debt collection tool. It requires electric, gas and water utilities to continue to publicly report, by zip code, disconnection rates and other credit and collection policies to improve transparency on the impact of these policies.
Tax Sale and Scavenger Sales (SB 508)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Michael Hastings and Rep. Mike Zalewski
This bill makes various changes to the dates for county level annual tax sales and biannual scavenger sales. Also, for local taxing districts, it allows for a supplemental levy if the issuance of a certificate of error, a court order, or a final administrative decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board results in a refund from the taxing district. In addition, it requires the tax collector in counties with 275,000 or more people to adopt a “single bidder rule.” The purpose of such a rule is to ensure that one tax purchaser may not have their agents, employees, or related entities register under multiple registrations for the purpose of having more than one person bidding at the tax sale at the same time to increase the tax purchaser’s likelihood of obtaining a successful bid on a parcel. Smaller counties are permitted to adopt a single bidder rule. Cook County already has a single bidder rule.
Addressing Discrimination in Home Loan Modifications (SB 1561)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Celina Villanueva and Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
This bill amends the Illinois Human Rights Act. It declares that it is a civil rights violation for a third-party loan modification service provider, because of unlawful discrimination, familial status, or an arrest record, to (1) refuse to engage in loan modification services, (2) alter the terms, conditions, or privileges of such services, or (3) discriminate in making such services available.
Abandoned and Neglected Properties/Tax Sale Penalty Bids (SB 1721)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Steve Stadelman and Rep. Lakesia Collins
The bill will reduce the number of abandoned and neglected homes by helping municipalities intervene earlier through the court system to save properties if their condition impairs public health, safety, or welfare. It allows municipalities and counties to partner with land banks to maintain and manage vacant buildings so they can be saved. In the property tax code, the bill also reduces the maximum penalty bids for the annual tax sale from 18% to 9%, reducing the cost of redeeming property taxes that have been sold at the annual tax sale.
Manufactured/Mobile Homes-Improved Loan Disclosures to Support Refinancing (SB 1779)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Laura Murphy and Rep. Marty Moylan
Key Supporters: Manufactured Home Owners Association of Illinois
Buyers in the manufactured/mobile housing market often get a chattel loan, the type of loan you get for a car or boat. In Illinois, if the home is placed on a homeowner’s land, the title is changed to a deed, allowing the buyer to get a mortgage, and is taxed as personal property. However, a buyer who purchases a manufactured home located in a manufactured home community is given a chattel loan. With larger development companies, the landlord can also arrange for a home loan under a different name and this information is not shared with the buyer. Most often, sales people do not share this type of loan information. New homes can sell for $100,000 in this market. Sales people often use the word mortgage, which is not accurate. At some point, a manufactured home owner will want to refinance a home but discovers they have a chattel loan and cannot refinance. The buyer also finds out they do not have the legal protections that come with a mortgage. The bill puts in place disclosures that are required with the chattel loan to better educate home buyers about the terms of their loan.
Manufactured/Mobile Homes-Protect Water Supplies (SB 1780)
Chief Sponsors: Sen. Laura M. Murphy and Rep. Marty Moylan
Key Supporters: Manufactured Home Owners Association of Illinois
Many manufactured home communities provide housing to more than 500 families, and Illinois has about 1,200 communities statewide. The landlord is responsible for supplying adequate and safe water to the homes. Advocates are regularly contacted by homeowners documenting their water was not supplied to the home for many days to weeks. The bill addresses this problem in the event that the water supply is stopped for any reason. Failure of the landlord to maintain the water supply infrastructure generally results in these long water stoppages. In many communities, water usage is included in the rent cost, but renters are not receiving a service they are paying for. The bill requires that the park owner is responsible for providing a water supply to each household following a 3-day period in which the normal supply of water is disrupted.
Property Tax Certificates of Purchase (SB 1845)
Chief Sponsors: Mattie Hunter and Rep. Sonya Harper
This bill amends the Property Tax Code. It requires the owner of a certificate of purchase to file with the county clerk the names and addresses of the owners of the property and those persons entitled to service of notice at their last known addresses. It also requires that the clerk mail notice within 30 days from the date of the filing of addresses with the clerk.
Our Work Continues
Of course, there is still more to be done, and we did work on important bills that did not pass. These include:
State Funding for Housing & Homelessness
Existing line items for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and other agencies that support the creation of affordable housing and ending homelessness were generally flat funded at their current (FY 21) levels.
However, there was significant funding for these purposes—more than $114 million—dedicated from federal fiscal recovery funds provided to the State of Illinois through the American Rescue Plan.
- $75 million for IHDA to implement the COVID-19 Affordable Housing Grant Program (see HB 2621 above)
- $28.1 million for IDHS for Supportive Housing services in two separate line items—$25 million and $3.054 million
- $10 million for the Housing is Recovery Pilot Program (see HB 449 above)
- $1 million for IDHS for the Homeless Youth Program
Of the $8.1 billion that the State of Illinois is receiving in fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan, much is left to be committed, as the FY22 budget bill only appropriated about $2.5 billion—$1.5 billion for the operating budget and $1 billion for the capital budget.
Because of this, we have upcoming opportunities to advocate for allocating more of the recovery funds to support low-income renters, home owners and people experiencing homelessness.
Other 2021 State Legislative Wins
Interested in what happened in state policy issues earlier this year? Read our January 2021 Illinois General Assembly Lame Duck Session wrap-up »
Another important 2021 advocacy win for Housing Action Illinois, Woodstock Institute, and our CRA allies came back during the Lame Duck Session, when the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (IL CRA) passed. The 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. It compliments the federal Community Reinvestment Act by providing oversight for state regulated financial institutions not covered by the federal CRA, including state chartered 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.