Just Housing Amendment to come into effect December 31

Measure will protect over 1 million people in Cook County from housing discrimination.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners has approved the final set of rules to govern the Just Housing Amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance, making a major step towards economic and racial justice for more families. The amendment will now go into effect on December 31, 2019, prohibiting housing providers in Cook County from discriminatory blanket bans against housing applications from individuals with past involvement in the criminal legal system.

Fair access to safe, affordable, and stable housing is fundamental to people’s ability to achieve economic stability and care for themselves and their families. Research also shows that when individuals with records have stable homes, recidivism rates are reduced.

The rules approved by the Board of Commissioners will ensure that housing providers and housing authorities do not consider arrests, juvenile records, and sealed and expunged records when evaluating an individual’s application for rental housing, or look back further than three years after an applicant’s date of conviction. For applicants with a conviction on their record, housing providers will need to conduct an individualized assessment and consider factors such as the nature of the offense and the time that has passed since the offense.

One in three Americans has an arrest record before they turn 23, and jurisdictions across the country have passed similar fair housing measures as an integral component of criminal justice reform. Blanket housing bans against people with records disproportionately impacts Black and Brown families, and people with disabilities, and are often an avenue for race- and disability-based discrimination.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to correct age-long wrongs that have systematically deprived black families, in particular, access to housing,” said Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who was the lead sponsor for the amendment. “This will open opportunities to individuals who have been stigmatized by their social economic status, and the goal has always been to give these families access to housing in Cook County.”

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law fought for years to secure this victory as part of the Just Housing Initiative, a coalition of 100+ supporting organizations and individuals with lived experiences challenging barriers against housing for people with arrest and conviction records.

“At its core, the passage of this amendment means that for more than 1 million people and their families, Cook County has become more just,” said Marie-Claire Tran-Leung, Senior Attorney in Housing and Community Justice at the Shriver Center.

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Shelter is not only a basic human need, it is also critical to people’s ability to pursue and attain economic stability.

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