Senator VillivalamSPRINGFIELD – To make housing more accessible to low-income families, State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) advanced legislation from the Senate Executive Committee to prevent property owners from discriminating against a prospective renter’s source of income.

“No one should be denied housing when they have the means to make the rent,” Villivalam said. “Too often, individuals on government assistance, single mothers receiving child support or seniors on fixed incomes are turned away solely based on where they receive their income each month.”

House Bill 2775 adds “source of income” to the Illinois Human Rights Act's protections against discrimination in real estate transactions, making it a civil rights violation to refuse to consider an individual for housing solely based on their source of income. To comply with the proposed law, housing providers will just have to treat each applicant the same during their evaluation and screening process.

Over half of Illinois households are susceptible to source of income discrimination because they earn non-wage income, such as social security, retirement income and public assistance. In addition, about 99,000 households who use Housing Choice Vouchers to pay their rent often experience source of income discrimination. Protections against this kind of discrimination are in place in the cities of Chicago, Urbana and Naperville, as well as Cook County.

At the committee hearing, Sharon Norwood testified about her past struggles to rent an apartment using a Housing Choice Voucher.

“Although I have always been an exceptional tenant, including paying my rent on time, the door was often closed immediately when I mentioned having a voucher,” Norwood said. “I wasn’t even given the chance to apply and present myself fairly. And this is the unfortunate reality for many individuals and families across Illinois that pay for housing with a subsidy program, or any other type of non-wage income.”

The legislation is supported by more than 130 organizations, including AARP, Access Living, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, Housing Action Illinois, HOPE Fair Housing Center, Housing Choice Partners, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Shriver Center on Poverty Law and Working Family Solidarity, among other housing and disability rights advocacy groups.

“Housing is a right, and we must act to ensure all Illinoisans have access to it,” Villivalam said.

House Bill 2775 passed the Senate Executive Committee and awaits consideration before the full Senate.

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