Senator VillivalamCHICAGO – To make housing more accessible to low-income families, legislation to prevent property owners from discriminating against a prospective renter’s source of income, championed by State Senator Ram Villivalam, was signed into law on Monday.

"No one should be denied housing when they have the means to make the rent,” said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). “This measure will protect individuals on government assistance, single mothers receiving child support and seniors on fixed incomes who may have been turned away from housing in the past.”

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 19 other states and the cities of Chicago, Urbana and Naperville, as well as Cook County.

At a Senate Executive 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 new law 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 was signed by the governor on Monday and is effective immediately.