JCUA advocates for affordable housing protection in Cook County human rights ordinance

JCUA amplifies a Jewish voice in a campaign to amend the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to make discrimination based on Section-8 housing vouchers illegal (read JCUA’s letter to Cook County’s Board President here).

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JCUA members and allies at a housing rally

Background

One important focus of JCUA’s work is to prmote access to affordable housing for low-income people in the Chicagoland Area. One such affordable housing option is through “Section-8” vouchers. Section-8 housing vouchers allow low income families to live in privately owned buildings. Section-8 residents pay 30% of their income in rent (similar to public housing residents). In the voucher program, the program pays landlords the difference between that 30% and the ‘fair market rate’ for the housing unit (up to a limit).

The Problem

Currently under Cook County’s Human Rights Ordinance, landlords are not allowed to refuse a potential tenant for reasons such as race, religion and… source of income. However, the ordinance states that a Section-8 housing voucher does not count as a source of income for the purposes of this ordinance. Thus, a landlord can refuse a potential tenant simply because s/he is a voucher holder. This exception has led in practice to increased housing segregation and racial discrimination.

A Jewish Voice for a Just Solution

JCUA’s partners at Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs are leading a campaign to amend the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to make discrimination based on Section-8 vouchers illegal. To amplify the Jewish voice in support of housing as a basic human right, JCUA has sent letters to Cook County commissioners, including President Toni Preckwinkle, urging them to do the right thing, and take the Section-8 exception out of the existing ordinance (read JCUA’s letter here).

In this letter Judy Levey, JCUA’s CEO writes:

“By being allowed in Cook County to refuse to rent to someone because they have a voucher, property owners can use that sanctioned conduct as a cover to engage in illegal discrimination against families, persons of color, and persons with disabilities.  This form of discrimination is largely based on stereotypes about people who have Housing Choice Vouchers.  The consequence of that discrimination is that voucher holders have limited housing choices and become clustered in certain parts of Cook County.  The proposed Source of Income Amendment would increase opportunity for Housing Choice Voucher holders to move to other neighborhoods throughout Cook County” (read JCUA’s letter here).

We will keep you posted as this important issue develops. Meanwhile, contact your Cook County Commissioner and tell them you support the Section-8 amendment to the Cook County Human Rights ordinance.

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