By Mercedes G. González, Policy Specialist
Reentry legislation dubbed the “Housing as a Human Right Bill” was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday.
Senate Bill 1780 makes it a civil rights violation to refuse to engage in a real estate transaction based on specific components of someone’s criminal record. As part of the Illinois Human Rights Act, it will be illegal to discriminate against a person seeking housing based on an arrest record that did not lead to a conviction, a juvenile record, or a sealed/expunged record. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
SB1780 was an initiative of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). RROCI is comprised of directly-impacted people, policy advocates, and community organizers from CCH’s Reentry Project, Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and the Community Renewal Society.
Grassroots leaders from RROCI advocated weekly in Springfield to push this bill through the legislature, securing a final vote in the Senate on May 31. Our leaders viewed this as a crucial effort because all too often, people are denied housing opportunities because of their records.
“The human rights bill is so important, because it creates access to fair and safe housing and stops discrimination against people with records,” said Elgina Mallett, a CCH reentry leader. “Everyone deserves a safe place to call home.”
With this bill, we hope to ensure that individuals and their families can find safe and affordable housing in their communities.
Many thanks to our bill sponsors who made this effort possible: State Rep. Curtis J. Tarver, II and State Sen. Omar Aquino (both D-Chicago).
SB1780 will allow Illinois to be in compliance with guidance issued under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The guidance states that arrest records may not serve as the basis for denying someone housing because it creates a disproportionate impact on people of color.
Under the new law, those whose housing rights are violated will be able to file a discrimination charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
 Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, WASHINGTON DC 20410-0500, APRIL 4, 2016.