Just Rules for the Just Housing Amendment

Housing is a fundamental right for all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds.

Yet every year, over 10,000 formerly incarcerated individuals return to Cook County and struggle to find stable housing.1 Many of these individuals have children and families of their own. In fact, over a five-year period, more than 34,000 men and women with children return to Cook County.2 Because of their background, however, these individuals, along with their families, are denied housing. They are forced to live on the streets, in shelters, or find other temporary solutions for shelter. Without stable housing, recidivism rates are higher and families are left torn apart.

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A huge victory in the fight for just housing occurred when the Just Housing Amendment was passed this past April. The Just Housing Amendment requires landlords and real estate agencies to determine whether a person has met financial and other qualifications before considering that person's criminal history; and prohibits blanket bans on criminal records, as well as housing discrimination on the basis of arrest records, juvenile records and records that have been expunged and sealed.

The fight continues as the Just Housing Initiative advocates for rules that reflect the spirit of the Amendment. The Human Rights Commission, the regulatory body that will oversee the implementation of the Just Housing Amendment, has drafted rules for the Amendment. These rules and any modifications to the rules will be up for debate by the Cook County Rules Committee on September 25. While we applaud the efforts of the Commission to create just and equitable rules, the current draft rules require additional changes and should not be voted on in its current version.  Rather, the Just Housing Initiative urges both the Rules Committee and the Commission to incorporate JHI’s changes to the rules.

People with backgrounds are not their records. They should not be judged by their backgrounds when applying for housing.

If you want to know how you can get involved, please reach out to Sarah Yousuf or Rishona Taylor at syousuf@communityrenewalsociety.org or rtaylor@communityrenewalsociety.org.


1 Impact in Cook County (Analyses by Loyola’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice of data of adults released from Illinois’ Prisons between State Fiscal Year 2011 and 2015 back to zip codes within Cook County, population data provided by the IDOC’s Planning and Research Units, Criminal History Record Information generated and provided by the Research and Analysis Unit of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

2 Ibid.