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On March 24, Illinois amped up the state’s fight to prevent a COVID related housing crisis by passing HB2775 out of the Illinois House of Representatives’ Housing Committee. HB2775 will amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to prohibit landlords from discriminating against individuals solely because they use non-traditional sources of income (aka “SOI” discrimination) and, in turn, will aid in the state’s efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness through the many rental subsidy programs assisting households with low incomes. Non-traditional sources of income can include benefits through the VA, Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI)), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In other words, a diverse group of individuals, including families, seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities, rely on non-traditional sources of income to pay their bills.
Currently, six cities, counties, or local municipalities provide SOI protections within their jurisdictions, including Chicago, Cook County, Naperville, and Urbana. These laws prohibit landlords from denying housing to anyone simply because they use a rental voucher or another form of non-traditional, but legal, income to pay the rent. The scarcity of these protections limits the ability for families with non-traditional incomes to live where they choose; in areas that do not have these protections, turning down applicants with non-traditional incomes is perfectly legal and a commonplace occurrence. In particular, denying a family housing because they use a voucher or have other sources of non-traditional income restricts housing mobility. Housing mobility refers to the ability of a household to move to communities that have been historically off-limits to families with lower incomes and/or families of color but offer access to opportunities and resources that can help families build generational wealth and promote upward socioeconomic mobility over time, including well-performing schools, healthcare access, job centers, and more. Until all communities are equitably provided the resources and investments they require for all residents to thrive, we need to ensure all families have the ability to choose where they can best thrive.
In addition to promoting a broader range of housing and neighborhood choice, HB2775 will ensure that renters who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 are not denied the opportunity to receive substantial relief. Not only will the bill prevent landlords from discriminating against individuals with non-traditional SOIs, it also prohibits a landlord from denying or refusing to accept emergency housing assistance for eligible tenants. In effect, HB2775 provides additional layers of protection against eviction for tenants that have been most impacted by COVID-19 and the economic fallout.
Illinois must pass HB2775 now and join the 18 other U.S. states that have already enacted source of income protections. If you or anyone you know utilizes non-traditional SOIs to rent or purchase a home, knowing your rights is critical and we urge you to learn more about HB2775.
Kennedy Odulio-Papa is a member of the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing and a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Adler University.