Rules to ad­dress bias in hous­ing

Or­di­nance out­laws re­fusal to show, rent in some cases

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - By Gre­gory Pratt [email protected]­ Twit­ter @roy­al­pratt

Cook County com­mis­sion­ers on Thurs­day ap­proved an or­di­nance aimed at end­ing hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple with arrest records.

Dubbed the “Just Hous­ing” or­di­nance, the mea­sure makes it il­le­gal to refuse to show prop­erty or rent hous­ing to peo­ple with cer­tain crim­i­nal records.

It doesn’t ap­ply to sex of­fend­ers or peo­ple who have a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion that, af­ter an “in­di­vid­u­al­ized as­sess­ment,” shows that de­nial based on the con­vic­tion “is nec­es­sary to pro­tect against a demon­stra­ble risk to per­sonal safety and/or prop­erty of oth­ers af­fected by the trans­ac­tion.”

The rules around the “in­di­vid­u­al­ized as­sess­ment” will be made by the Cook County Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights, which will then bring them to the board for ap­proval, com­mis­sion­ers said.

Only Repub­li­can com­mis­sion­ers Pete Sil­vestri and Sean Mor­ri­son voted against the or­di­nance.

Com­mis­sioner Bran­don John­son, the or­di­nance’s chief spon­sor, said the bill had “the sole pur­pose of end­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against fam­i­lies and re­turn­ing cit­i­zens who have been plagued and haunted by the ves­tiges of Jim Crow.”

Hous­ing is one of the “great­est chal­lenges” peo­ple re­turn­ing from prison or jail face, he said.

Cook County Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle praised com­mis­sion­ers for back­ing “a pol­icy that will help sta­bi­lize the lives of so many of our county res­i­dents.” She said the or­di­nance bal­ances in­clu­sion and safety.

“If the or­di­nance is prop­erly im­ple­mented, no land­lord, neigh­bor or fel­low res­i­dent will be un­nec­es­sar­ily ex­posed to any risk or harm,” she said.

Com­mis­sioner Den­nis Deer spoke about the need for sec­ond chances and to let peo­ple move for­ward with their lives.

“There’s no room for dou­ble jeop­ardy. Peo­ple should not be re­quired to pay over and over and over again for a crime they com­mit­ted when they were 19,” Deer said. “It’s just in­sane.”

Com­mis­sioner Kevin Mor­ri­son echoed Deer.

“We should not be a coun­try that con­tin­ues to pe­nal­ize those who al­ready served their time,” Mor­ri­son said. “We need to make sure we are send­ing a (mes­sage) that we should not be held to ac­count solely based on our past but what we wish to do in the present and into the fu­ture.”

Com­mis­sioner Alma Anaya com­mended John­son, say­ing the bill is “an im­por­tant step in ad­vanc­ing the fact that hous­ing is a hu­man right.”

“Crim­i­nal­iza­tion and the col­lat­eral con­se­quences of crim­i­nal records have a di­rect neg­a­tive im­pact on peo­ple with low in­comes and peo­ple of color,” Anaya said.

An at­tor­ney who spoke be­fore the board said she was con­cerned by how fast the bill went through and said she felt the land­lords weren’t given enough op­por­tu­nity for com­ment.

She said it can be very dif­fi­cult to evict a ten­ant, and per­haps the board should con­sider mak­ing it eas­ier to ac­com­plish that if there are prob­lems.

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