Each year, Housing Action Illinois works on a broad range of issues aligned with our core mission of creating an Illinois where everyone has a good, affordable place to call home. Below are some of our priorities for the 2022 Illinois General Assembly session, as well as local and federal level work—measures that we believe will help families and communities across Illinois to thrive.

 

All the issues we work on have an explicit economic and/or racial justice component. Whether our policy proposal is focused on ending homelessness, preventing evictions, creating affordable rental housing, promoting affordable home ownership, or something else, the people most impacted are low-income and people of color. You can read more about the systemic inequalities that drive our work on our issue pages.

 

Pass state legislation to expand housing opportunities for renters

    • Protect against source of income discrimination at the state level (HB 2775). People seeking rental housing are regularly denied the opportunity to even apply for available housing opportunities simply because landlords or property management companies choose not to accept their legal form of payment. This includes Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Housing Choice Vouchers, veteran vouchers, child support, emergency COVID assistance and any other “non-wage” forms of rent payment. This is known as source of income (SOI) discrimination.

      Denials based on SOI disproportionately limit the housing choices of people who are Black, Latinx, persons with disabilities, and female heads of households. Denials based on SOI offer a legal pretext to refuse housing to persons often otherwise protected against discrimination in fair housing law.

      As a member of the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing, we are working to pass state legislation to establish state level source of income protections to ensure that renters are not discriminated against for using public benefits, rental assistance, or other non-employment income to pay for housing. By passing a bill to protect against source of income discrimination, Illinois will join a group of 19 states and Washington D.C., which already have similar protections. Learn more.

    • Extend the recent state law expanding the sealing of tenant eviction records to help people secure a home (HB 5180 and SB 3913). Having an eviction filing on your record is a serious obstacle to finding housing, even if a court didn’t decide the case against you. The COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act passed last year made changes to state law regarding mandatory, automatic and discretionary sealing of eviction records, but these provisions sunset in 2022. We are advocating for these sealing policies to be extended. If they are not extended, Illinois will return to the previous extremely strict standard for sealing eviction records, where it’s hard to seal cases even if the court case was dismissed, if the tenant was able to successfully defend against the eviction, and when tenants were evicted through no fault of their own. Learn more.

Promote smart state investments in affordable housing and to end homelessness

    • Invest state budget appropriated relief funds in preserving and creating affordable housing, preventing evictions and foreclosures, and ending homelessness. The current year state budget included significant increases in federal funds for affordable housing, mostly for rent and mortgage assistance. There were also increases in state funding to support organizations helping to distribute emergency rent assistance and provide legal assistance to people facing eviction, as well as to assist people experiencing homelessness secure housing. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we will advocate to continue this funding and for the State of Illinois to appropriate additional federal fiscal recovery funds that will help people to secure and maintain an affordable place to call home. Our priorities include new funding to create and operate non-congregate emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness and downpayment and home rehab funding leveraged to address the racial wealth gap in targeted communities.

Pursue policies and practices that support the goals of the Ending Rental Arrears to Stop Evictions (ERASE) Project

    • Our goals for our work on the ERASE Project are to to 1) ensure that no evictions occur when emergency rental assistance (ERA), or other services and interventions, could be used to prevent them; 2) maximize the amount of ERA funds that assist renters and small landlords with the greatest need for assistance, especially Black, indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and other marginalized people; and 3) use successfully implemented eviction prevention strategies to help make the case for long-term efforts to end housing instability and homelessness in our nation. With support from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, we do this work by partnering with others to monitor implementation of state and local ERA programs and make recommendations for program improvements, as well as demonstrating the positive impact of ERA in preventing evictions and keeping people housed.

Ensure strong implementation of the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act

    • Ensure that the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (IL CRA) becomes an effective tool to increase financial inclusion for communities of color and rural communities in our state. In 2021, we worked alongside members and allies to pass the IL CRA, which regulates financial institutions in our state, including banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions. Now, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is creating rules to implement the legislation. We have been and will continue to organize our coalition members to provide input into the rulemaking process. As co-leaders of the IL CRA Coalition, we are working to ensure strong implementation of the legislation.

Strengthen and modernize the federal Community Reinvestment Act

    • We continue to advocate for the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to better incentivize equitable investments and become bolder, stronger, and better suited to meet the needs of today’s communities. In recent years, both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Bank, two of the three regulating agencies that enforce the CRA, changed or began to change their rules for enforcing the CRA. Now, the three agencies (including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) are working to reach a common agreement on how to implement the CRA. We will continue to organize our coalition members to provide input into the rulemaking process at the federal level. This is a key opportunity to influence how banks invest in our communities, one that may not occur again for decades.

Expand Black homeownership to close the racial wealth gap

    • Advocate for public policies that help close the racial gap in homeownership. 66% of Illinois households are homeowners, but they are 1.6 times more likely to be white than a person of color. Our homeownership priorities address complex structural issues and promote programs to increase safe and affordable financing for homebuyers, including:
        • Work with housing counseling agencies, lenders and others to increase access to affordable financing for homebuyers through small dollar acquisition and rehab loans and use of alternative credit scoring methods that will allow more current residents of low-income communities of color to qualify to purchase homes, rather than have them be sold to business buyers.
        • Assist housing counseling agencies in making use of funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act to serve homeowners facing housing foreclosure and/or other types of housing instability related to loan default, loss of income, risk of homelessness and/or other issues. Forty percent of the funds are targeted for organizations serving communities of color. We will provide training and technical assistance for agencies to make short- and long-term investments with the funds.
        • Advocate to change state rules to allow for funding homeownership opportunities that use a ground lease with a community land trust to support permanent affordability, benefiting generations of homeowners who would otherwise not be able to live in higher-cost communities. Land trusts are an underutilized means of creating permanent affordable housing in communities experiencing development, and public and private funding is often incompatible with community-equity ownership models.

Support coordination of statewide efforts to end homelessness

    • Housing Action Illinois will continue to facilitate monthly conversations among the 19 Illinois Continuums of Care, the local planning bodies that coordinate housing and services funding for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. During these discussions, we identify ways to improve policies on homelessness, provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and encourage service providers to participate in advocacy efforts.
    • Support the launch of the Interagency Task Force on Homelessness and inform a new state plan to reach a functional zero for homelessness. At the end of 2021, we submitted our recommendations for the plan and will work to have them adopted and implemented in 2022. Our recommendations included better using existing data for program planning purposes, developing strategies to reduce the number of people turned away from state funded homeless shelters, and increasing the number of affordable rental homes funded that are affordable to extremely low-income households, including permanent supportive housing.

Invest in affordable housing & ending homelessness at the federal level

    • In collaboration with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and others around the nation, we are advocating for significantly increased federal investment in affordable housing as infrastructure through the Build Back Better Act, as negotiations over the package continue in Congress. The package that passed the House, but has been held up in the Senate, includes $150 billion for affordable housing to create more affordable rental homes, expand homeownership in ways intended to reduce the racial wealth gap, and address other longstanding housing needs.
    • We are also engaging organizations from other sectors in our federal advocacy work as a state partner for Opportunity Starts at Home—a long-term, multi-sector campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s residents with low-incomes. Our local work includes partnering with organizations working on healthcare, disability rights, refugee services and workers’ rights to educate and advocate for the federal investments needed to make sure everyone has an affordable place to call home.

Research the racial equity impact of local code enforcement strategies

      • We are partnering with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on an 18-month research project examining the impacts of rental housing regulations and enforcement strategies in Illinois. The project will look at how these affect local landlord-tenant relationships by race and socioeconomic status, as well as how they relate to patterns of residential instability and eviction. Support for this research is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Policies for Action program. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.

Want to help us make this agenda a reality?

Sign up for our policy alerts here or get in touch with Bob Palmer, our Policy Director:
bob@housingactionil.org | (312) 939-6075