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?

  • We co-led the effort to create the Rental Housing Support Program in 2005, which provides funding to assist about 2,500 extremely low-income households pay their rent each year.
  • In partnership with the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and groups around the country, we advocated for the creation of the National Housing Trust Fund, a dedicated fund to create rental housing for people with the lowest incomes. Between 2016 and 2018, Illinois received $21.7 million from the Trust Fund. Approximately 1,500 rental homes are being created by 42 states with the 2016 inaugural fund allocations.
  • In 2017, we created a new training for housing counselors to equip them with the knowledge and skills to help clients navigate the rental market.
  • In 2018, we successfully advocated for a state law that clarifies that potential deductions from a renter’s security deposit be reasonable and for damage beyond normal wear and tear, as well as a state law that ensures people who have applied to a Public Housing Authority for housing can find out their status on the waiting list within 10 business days.
  • In 2018, we co-released a report Prejudged: The Stigma of Eviction Records, exploring how an eviction filing on the public record is a serious obstacle to finding housing for people whose cases did not result in them actually getting evicted. This is true even in cases where the tenant did not violate their lease in any way. The report shows that 39% of eviction cases filed in Cook County during the past four years did not result in an eviction order and/or other judgment against the tenant.