By Mercedes G. González, Policy Specialist
After advocacy by our reentry coalition, the Housing as a Human Right bill passed through the Illinois State Senate by May 31, at the close of the spring legislative session.
Senate Bill 1780 creates 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 now 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.
SB1780 is 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 Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and CCH’s Reentry Project.
Grassroots leaders from RROCI advocated weekly in Springfield to push this bill through the legislature. 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.
This legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Individuals 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.