The Issue

Across the nation, a greater share of the population is renting than at any point in the last 50 years. In Illinois, the percentage of renters compared to owners has increased, and the rental vacancy rate has declined since the 2008 Great Recession. People with the lowest incomes have always had a hard time affording the rent and more people renting has raised public awareness about the issue.

An accepted standard is that a home is considered “affordable” if it costs 30% or less of your total income, but many are spending much more than this. Nearly three quarters of extremely low-income renter households spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, meaning they can be just one financial setback—a change in work hours or a broken-down car—away from an eviction notice.

Housing Action Illinois works to make sure that everyone has an affordable home, so that people can focus on thriving, rather than struggling to keep a roof over their head. For example, young children in families who are in unstable housing situations are 20% more likely to be hospitalized than those who do not worry about frequent moves or have anxiety over affording the rent.

We focus on advocating for greater investment in public programs and policies that expand affordable rental options, particularly for people with the most severe housing needs.

Who Can Rent A Home In Illinois?

Only 35 of every 100 extremely low-income renters looking to rent a home in Illinois will find one they can afford. In total, there is shortage of 453,923 available and affordable homes statewide for extremely low-income households.


Why Racial Justice Matters

Increasing the amount of affordable rental housing promotes racial equity by offsetting historic policies in housing, education, and other essential areas that promoted systemic racial discrimination and segregation. According to U.S. Census data for 2016 in Illinois, regardless of income, 42.6% of White, non-Hispanic renter households spent 30% or more of their income on housing. By contrast, 58.4% of African American renter households, and 48.4% of Hispanic renter households, did so.

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What Does It Cost To Rent In Illinois?

In 2018, the average two-bedroom apartment in Illinois costs $1,058 per month. For a minimum-wage worker to avoid paying more than 30% of their income for a decent two-bedroom apartment, they must work 99 hours per week at the current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. For someone who has a limited fixed income, such as Social Security, and lives alone, paying the rent can take just about their entire income for a one-bedroom or studio apartment.


What Have We Been Doing?

  • In 2005, we co-led the effort to create the Rental Housing Support Program. This program helps about 2,500 households pay their rent each year.
  • We worked with groups around the country to create the National Housing Trust Fund. This fund creates rental housing for people with the lowest incomes. Between 2016 – 2018, this fund brought $21.7 million to Illinois.
  • We created a new training for housing counselors to help renters in 2017.
  • In 2018, we advocated for state laws on security deposits and public housing wait lists. Our work made processes more transparent and fair.
  • We publish research and data. Each year, we co-release reports with the National Low Income Housing Coalition to share data on the lack of available, affordable housing and the high cost of rental housing in Illinois. In 2018, we also co-released a report exploring the impact of eviction filings on future housing for renters. In 2019, we published a policy brief on the prevalence of eviction throughout Illinois.