Friends, activists and dignitaries packed the upstairs lounge at Revolution Brewing for Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s annual Renters’ Spring Celebration.
This year’s celebration commemorated the 45th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act. Honorees for the evening included Cook County Commissioners Larry Suffredin, Robert Steele and Jesus Garcia as Fair Housing Champions. MTO recognized the Commissioners for their support of fair housing standards in the suburbs and for their work on the Source of Income legislation to end discrimination in Suburban Cook County. Beto Berrera of Access Living and Kate Walz of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law received Tenant Champion Awards for their work with tenants facing discrimination and their advocacy to expand fair housing laws. The Ralph Scott Award, named in memory of longtime Chicago community activist and environmental health advocate Ralph Scott, was awarded to Rose Green of New Directions for Change in recognition of her leadership among renters throughout the city to fight for housing justice.
“It was a pleasure to honor Rose Green, Kate Walz, and Beto Barrera – three exemplary advocates for tenants in Chicago. It was also great to see so many old friends. I’m glad I came and will look forward to coming again next year!” Brian White, Charter One Bank.
It is most fitting that the 2nd Annual Ralph Scott Award for Tenant Leadership will go to Rose Green, president of Rogers Park-based New Directions for Change, an organization which works on issues of low-income tenants, many of whom are voucher holders.
Ralph dedicated his life to working with and empowering low-income renters to assert their right to decent, safe and affordable housing. For many of his years in Chicago, Ralph was a key force in the Rogers Park Tenants Committee which later became the Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN). Ms. Green epitomizes the work of Ralph. Like Ralph Scott, Ms. Green as a Section 8 voucher holder became active with RPCAN in the late 1990s.
What drew Rose to RPCAN and organizing was her personal experience of having to face down discrimination on her own. When Rose first received her voucher she was excited that it would help her with her housing costs. As she searched for an apartment, she just could not find one. There were plenty out there but the landlords would always say they didn’t have one as soon as they learned she had a voucher. Then according to Rose, “I went to a meeting at RPCAN and found out I was being discriminated against and I’ve been involved ever since.” Rose organized the Rogers Park Section 8 Tenants Council.
Despite health concerns, Rose has worked tirelessly for low-income tenants in general and subsidized tenants in particular. She developed effective working relationships with the Chicago Housing Authority which helped her advocate for both individual voucher holders and issues affecting voucher holders as a whole. For over six years, Rose has also been an ardent advocate for protecting suburban Cook County voucher holders from discrimination based on source-of-income.
Currently, she continues this work with New Directions for Change which has picked up the work where the Section 8 Tenants Council left off. For several years now, New Directions has partnered with MTO in presenting tenant meetings and workshops in the Rogers Park neighborhood, for which Rose and her organization have also provided logistical support. Rose is committed to ending discrimination. She said, “I don’t think it is right (discrimination). I won’t give up. I don’t want other people to go through what I went through.”
To purchase tickets or to sponsor a housing choice voucher holder’s attendance, please click here.
Renters’ use of housing choice vouchers, more commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, long has worried communities that the arrival of voucher-holding tenants in a neighborhood will lead to crime and, eventually, lower property values.
That’s not true, says a new policy brief by researchers who studied crime patterns and voucher use in Chicago and nine other large cities over a number of years.
End Discrimination Against Housing Choice Voucher Holders in Suburban Cook County
Dear Friends & Supporters:
This year, MTO, Access Living and Progress Center of Illinois and numerous supporters and endorsers are embarked on an effort to win passage of an amendment to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance (CCHRO). The Source of Income protection – co-sponsored by Commissioners Jesus Garcia, Larry Suffredin and Robert Steele, would end discrimination against Housing Choice Voucher holders.
The CCHRO currently allows landlords to deny Housing Choice Voucher holders the right to apply for an apartment. Contrary to beliefs promoted by opponents of the amendment, a landlord would not be forced to rent to a voucher holder applicant. The landlord can still screen a tenant based on reasonable criteria such as past rental histories, credit checks, etc. Any successful landlord will tell you that the key to success is a good screening process based on facts. Click here to read more.
The amendment has 6 supporters on the Cook County Board of Commissioners:
7th District Commissioner Jesus Garcia, 13th District Commissioner Larry Suffredin, 2nd District Commissioner Robert Steele, 3rd District Commissioner Jerry Butler, 5th District Commissioner Deborah Sims, and 10th District Commissioner Bridget Gainer.
-Call to Action-
Please CALL and/or EMAIL the following Commissioners to express your support for the amendment.
Commissioner Earlean Collins (1st District): 312-603-4566 or 773-626-2184 – email@example.com
Commissioner Edwin Reyes (8th District): 312-603-6386 or 773-588-1129 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Joan Murphy (6th District): 312-603-4216 or 708-389-2125 – email@example.com
Commissioner John Fritchey (12th District): 312-603-6380 or 773-871-4000 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Peter Silvestri (9th District): 312-603-4393 or 773-774-8554 – email@example.com
Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (16th District): 312-603-6384 or 708-352-2301 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us know how it went and find out more about how you can get involved in this campaign. Contact Shirley at email@example.com or 773-292-4980 ext 224.
MTO, Access Living and Progress Center Illinois held a Prayer Breakfast regarding the Source of Income amendment on January 15, 2013 at Pearl’s Place in Chicago. Over forty pastors and community leaders from across the city and suburbs were in attendance to hear from Housing Choice Voucher holders about experiences with discrimination based on their income.
Currently, the City of Chicago already prohibits landlords from discriminating against voucher holders. In the suburbs of Cook County, landlords can and do deny people housing solely because they have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. The Source of Income amendment is a protection that would require landlords to consider renting to Housing Choice Voucher holders. It would not force a landlord to participate in the program if the tenant does not meet typical requirements (i.e. poor credit rating, bad landlord reference). The amendment would give people with vouchers the equal opportunity to housing.
On Thursday January 24, 2013 from 2-4 pm at Progress Center Blue Island, MTO, Access Living and Progress Center IL invite you to attend a Town Hall meeting discussing housing discrimination. Come out and share your experiences with us, and help end housing discrimination and segregation. If you believe in equal opportunity, join us and show your support. For more information/transportation call us at 773-292-4980 ext. 224.
Photo: Commissioner Jesus Garcia and Commissioner Deborah Sims hear testimonies from Housing Choice Voucher holders at the Town Hall meeting held on January 24, 2013 at Progress Center Illinois in Blue Island.
On Thursday, December 13, 2012, more than 40 tenants and advocates from across Cook County picketed Oak Park Apartments’ headquarters on Chicago Avenue to protest the company’s refusal to accept Housing Choice Vouchers. While it may be legal in Cook County suburbs to refuse to rent to Housing Choice Voucher holders, it is not morally right.
According to one Housing Choice Voucher holder that lives in Oak Park, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, “I have been denied occupancy in countless properties including Oak Park Apartments, just because I have a voucher. This is just not fair. I pay my rent yet I cannot live in certain buildings!”
Adam Ballard of Access Living and a voucher holder stated, “Many people with disabilities rely on vouchers for their housing. We want Oak Park Apartments and Cook County to end this legalized discrimination. All we are asking is to be treated like anyone else.”
Currently, the City of Chicago forbids landlords to discriminate against voucher holders. There is no such prohibition in Cook County suburbs. Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, is trying to change that and has introduced legislation that would amend the County’s Human Rights Ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against Housing Choice Voucher holders.
After the picket, tenants went to Cook County Commissioner Earlene Collins’ office. The group wanted to know why Commissioner Collins had not signed on as a supporter of the amendment. While the Commissioner was away at the time, the group was promised a meeting with the Commissioner.
According to Shirley Johnson, Organizing Director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, “Section 8, Housing Choice Voucher Holders are stereotyped and therefore often forced to live in high crime, low opportunity communities. The recent presidential election proved that it is a “new America” where diversity rules. A rental policy that refuses to rent to voucher holders is blatant discrimination and should be outlawed, especially in today’s modern society.”
Oak Park Apartments claims to offer “the largest selection of well-maintained apartments perfect for those who want to experience Oak Park’s architectural character, its excellent school system and vibrant and diverse village feel.” However, they intentionally exclude Housing Choice Voucher holders from these opportunities.
Access Living, Progress Center and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization organized the protest. The groups promised to return. According to Adam Ballard of Access Living, “The fight for our rights has just begun.”
Single Room Occupancy hotels provide some of the poorest people in our communities with housing. While this is hardly housing of choice, many residents of Chicago are very grateful the option exists. At least this is the case with residents of the New Jackson Hotel, a downtown SRO that houses mostly low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Recently, one of its residents contacted the MTO Hotline. He reported mice, mold, holes in walls and ceilings, and only sporadic access to heat. Chief among his concerns was the fact that the owner has stopped accepting rent, which signaled to him that the building was about to be shut down.
MTO sent an organizer out to help the tenants form a tenants association. MTO’s support empowered them to work together to take steps to save their housing. First, they persuaded the owner to begin receiving rent again, which gave them some security around keeping a roof over their heads. Hoping to build on that success, they sought to negotiate with him for better living conditions. At first the landlord refused to negotiate. Tenants contacted their Alderman and enlisted the support of Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, a non-profit developer of affordable housing. Working with MTO, the Alderman’s office and Interfaith, the tenants succeeded in bringing their landlord to the table to negotiate around building repairs.
The tenants’ demands are simple: A clear plan for the future of the building, repair of all conditions issues or appropriate reduction of rent, and the cessation of illegal evictions and lockouts.
After several months of contacting 311, working with lawyers, and focusing on the Alderman, the owner was forced to negotiate. He was stopped lockouts and evictions, and offered all tenants a relocation deal equal to 2,000 per tenant.
On Friday, October 12th, Chicagoans gathered at City Hall to protest the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) proposed demolition of 1800 public housing units. Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s tenant leaders in conjunction with the Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI) led the charge against the proposed cuts.
“We need these units leased up not knocked down,” said Executive Director of People for Community Recovery and Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) member, Cheryl Johnson. Ms. Johnson who is a resident of Altgeld Gardens, expressed concern about the more than 600 units slated for demolition at Altgeld Gardens. “This is about our future and ability to stay in our community,” said Johnson. “If they knock these units down, what’s to stop CHA from knocking the rest of our community down.”
After hearing from the hundreds of tenants outside the Mayor’s office on the 5th floor, staff for Mayor Emanuel’s office agreed to meet with coalition representatives to discuss the proposals for demolition. Organizers are hopeful the Mayor will intervene to stop the demolitions.
“The CHA exists for only one reason and that is to provide affordable housing to low-income residents,” said Leah Levinger, coordinator of the Chicago Housing Initiative. “The CHI coalition will continue to raise public awareness around the issue of leasing these units out,” said Levinger. “We are asking that Mayor Emanuel intervene to set the CHA back on track.”
According to the CHI, over 60,000 people are on CHA’s waiting list. This, in a time when Chicagoan’s incomes are down as much as 10%, and local rental rates have – over the past few years – increased by 14%. MTO supports CHI’s efforts to push CHA to lease out more public housing units and opposes the proposed demolition.
For more information or to get involved in this campaign contact MTO community organizer Noah Moscowitz at 773.292.4980 ext 236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers education on how to protect your children’s health with this booklet “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home.” Learn about what hidden dangers may be in your home and how get rid of them. Healthy Home topics include: indoor air quality, asthma & allergies, mold & moisture, carbon monoxide, lead, drinking water, hazardous household products, pesticides and home safety.
To learn more about Healthy Homes or to speak to an Organizer call us at 773-292-4980 ext 231