Housing justice attorney Joerika Stitt looks at an Illinois law to expand housing access a year after its passage.
February 8, 2024
From access to health care, quality education, and food, housing affects every aspect of a person’s life. The ability to live a healthy life is heavily impacted by where a person lives.
I know this firsthand: I grew up with my family in a low-income area of Chicago. My mother had a housing choice voucher, and while our neighborhood experienced its share of inequities, we always lived in safe homes because of the voucher program. This upbringing instilled in me just how important access to affordable housing is for both individuals and families.
At the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, we work to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable housing, regardless of source of income, race, or criminal record background. And people in Illinois are now protected from source of income discrimination.
We joined 21 other states and over 100 cities in ending this type of discrimination. The Illinois law, which went into effect January 1, 2023, makes source of income discrimination in housing a civil rights violation. This means landlords can no longer deny housing or put special restrictions on a tenant because of their source of income.
Passage of new legislation still requires education and enforcement. It’s essential that people understand the law and their rights.
Landlords are responsible for educating themselves and following HB 2775 by ensuring equal treatment of both current and prospective tenants, no matter their source of income. Over half of Illinois households earn some sort of non-wage income. In other words, this is income that comes from a source other than a job, such as housing choice vouchers or public benefits like Social Security disability.
For tenants, this law opens new paths to reporting discrimination. They can contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights and file a complaint, or file their complaint in state court, which can often speed up the process by bypassing administrative red tape. The Shriver Center has partnered with the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing, which has made a handy toolkit with sample scripts to use when filing a complaint.
Nearly 20 years of organizing went into getting this law passed, with advocates fighting racist and ableist arguments against its passage. Source of income discrimination disproportionately affects Black mothers and people with disabilities, who are often stigmatized for their income sources on top of the racism and ableism they already face.
Part of the work included a statewide campaign with coalition partners to ensure that prospective landlords don’t discriminate against tenants based on their source of income. We also met with people impacted by this problem, housing advocates, and others to ensure they know the new law and do what is necessary to protect tenants from housing discrimination.
This progress wouldn’t be possible without close collaboration. I love working with our local and national partners on policies that advance racial and economic justice. Together, we get laws passed, make sure they are properly enforced, and ensure they benefit the communities we serve.
Eviction is a national crisis: 7.6 million renters face this threat annually, with single parent households affected the most. There are too many unnecessary barriers to housing, like unfair tenant screening practices and eviction filing records, which only perpetuate housing discrimination.
Ensuring housing is a human right for all people requires policy changes at the local, state, and federal level. The Shriver Center will continue to fight for safe, stable, and affordable homes for everyone. Housing justice is a racial and economic issue, and adding source of income as a protected class in Illinois moves us toward a more just and equitable future.