Source of Income Protection for Section 8 Voucher Holders

The Cook County Human Rights Ordinance protects individuals from discrimination based on their income (such as child support, social security) however, it specifically does not include protections for people with Section 8 housing vouchers.

With the ordinance as it stands, housing providers can and do deny qualified households solely because they have a Section 8 voucher.  Studies have proven that housing providers refuse to rent to voucher holders as a pretext for other types of illegal discrimination based on race, familial status, and disability.

MTO supports the proposed ordinance amendment that would include protection for individuals with Section 8 vouchers.  Property owners would still have the right to screen applicants.

The city of Chicago and six other municipalities in Illinois, ten states, the District of Columbia, and ten counties across the country have laws in place that protect individuals from discrimination based on using Housing Choice vouchers.

Voucher holders are some of the most scrutinized tenants and have to meet the rigorous criteria of the voucher administrator as well as comply with lease provisions. Nearly 40% of voucher recipients are employed and more than 30% are seniors or persons with disabilities. There is absolutely no evidence that persons who use Housing Choice Vouchers to make their housing affordable perpetuate or increase crime in communities.

Landlord participation in the voucher program is not unduly burdensome. Landlords only have to complete three simple forms. Payments made by the housing authority are made electronically. Units must pass a Housing Quality Standards inspection. Voucher recipients have to complete most of the paperwork.

By supporting this amendment to the CCHRO, the last remaining type of source of income discrimination in Cook County can finally end.

For more reading, check out this research article which found no evidence that voucher holder households increase crime in neighborhoods.


SOI Talking Points Final

Region 5 HUD Bed Bug Memo

Metropolitan Tenants Organization, in partnership with Region 5 HUD, Georgia HAP, Shriver Center, Community Investment Corporation, and several other agencies and community organizations, is happy to announce the completion of our guidelines memo on the best practices of bed bug control. Region 5 HUD distributed this memo to all Region 5 HUD property owners and agents in March 2011. Members of this partnership conducted much research on the best practices of bed bug control and on already existing HUD policy on general pest control to create this document.

This guidelines memo was written largely in part in response to the bad practices that have been employed by both landlords and tenants in efforts to rid their properties of infestations. Due to the dramatic spike in the frequency of calls to the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s Tenants Rights’ Hotline regarding bed bugs, it came to the attention of MTO that there is not much awareness nor are there many protections available to renters who deal with bed bug infestations in Chicago. Since then, MTO has worked diligently to ensure that there will be more education around the issue and more protections available to renters.
MTO convened this roundtable of partners in response to these bad practices in efforts to inform renters, landlords, and private homeowners on how to eradicate bed bugs in the most safe, effective, and economical ways. Many initiatives were discussed, including an educational campaign for both renters and landlords on how to effectively deal with bed bugs and an initiative to prevent the spread of infestations by properly marking or destroying infested mattresses and other pieces of furniture that have been disposed of in alleys, in addition to the memo/policy on the use of best practices in bed bug control.
The initial goal of the roundtable was to create a Region 5 HUD bed bug policy to be distributed to all HUD property owners and agents in the region. As it turned out, federal agencies do not have the jurisdiction to write and enforce policy at the regional level. As an alternative, the roundtable decided to go ahead with writing the document as a guidance memo to Region 5 HUD owners and agents. Click here to read the document in full. The roundtable will next work on getting national HUD to create and enforce a bed bug policy on the national level.

HUD Bed Bug Memo

When Bed Bugs Attack

Bed bugs have returned, invading our hospitals, hotels, public transportation, and most unsettling of all, our homes. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, bed bugs have proven to be a serious nuisance to homeowners and renters alike, across the nation.

While New York City leads the nation in reported incidents of bed bug infestations, according to an August 2010 report released by Terminix, the Windy City does not find itself far behind – we live in the fifth most bed bug infested city in the U.S. MTO can certainly attest to this, as hotline calls pertaining to bed bugs have increased dramatically in the last two years. In 2010, MTO received 313, usually very frantic, calls with complaints of bed bugs. Two years ago, bed bug calls to MTO’s hotline were nonexistent.

In response to this sudden reemergence of bed bugs in Chicago, MTO has led efforts to create a roundtable of representatives from HUD, EPA, Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and other invested agencies and community organizations. MTO is actively working with this group on creating a policy proposal for HUD subsidized buildings. Among other recommendations,  MTO has proposed the following to be included in a HUD policy on bed bugs:

-Landlords should disclose any known bed bug infestations within the previous 12 months to prospective renters,

-HUD should support an initiative for an educational campaign on bed bugs and pest control,

-Landlords should hire certified/licensed pest control professionals for both bed bug inspections and treatments,

-Landlords should encourage tenant notification of bed bug sightings by never retaliating against tenants (e.g. imposing fees, threatening eviction, etc),

-and HUD should allocate a long term source of funding to help landlords and renters combat bed bug infestations.

MTO is working on the bed bug issue at the state level as well. Meron Kahssai, an MTO Healthy Homes Organizer, has been appointed to the Illinois Subcommittee on Bed Bugs, a subcommittee of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Advisory Council. MTO will serve on this subcommittee as the voice of renters and will provide the necessary insight on the plight of renters to the other members of the state’s bed bug subcommittee. The goal of this subcommittee is to create a report with recommendations to the IL General Assembly on the prevention, management, and control of bed bugs which include recommendations on an educational campaign, proper transport and disposal of bed bug infested materials, and best practices of treatment and eradication.

Tenants who have dealt with bed bugs are encouraged to join MTO’s bed bug committee. This committee is open to anyone who is interested in serving the need of renters affected by bed bugs by pushing policies for both subsidized and market rate renters. Please contact Meron Kahssai at 773-292-4980 ext. 229, if interested.

Bed bugs will be the topic of discussion at the January 20th Tenant Congress meeting at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan). Following a presentation on bed bugs, the floor will be open for a question and answer session. This meeting is open to the public.

Affordable Housing Lottery: Apply Now

The Chicago Housing Authority is accepting applications for tenants who are in need of affordable housing.

Applications will be accepted from June 14, 2010 to July 9, 2010.  Of all applications received, CHA will randomly pull 40,000 names from the list.  These 40,000 applicants will then be placed on the Family Wait List.  If you are put on the Family Wait List, you will be contacted when a subsidized unit is available.  If you are eligible to recieve the subsidy, you will then be able to move into an apartment and your rent will be affordable based on your income.

We all know that affordable housing is hard to find, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to get on the list.

For more information about eligibility, applying, or CHA guidelines, go to

Testify about Your Experience as a HUD Subsidized Renter

Wednesday, June 30th will be your chance to voice your concerns to Mr. Ed Hinsberger, Chicago Multifamily HUD Director, and Mr. George Gilmore, HUD Neighborhood Coordinator.

HUD Subsidized Renters are invited to attend a HUD Townhall Meeting. This meeting is for property-based Section 8 Chicago HUD Subsidized tenants only.

When: Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Time:   1:00pm till 3:00pm
Where: Access Living
115 W Chicago Ave

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization along with Access Living are providing tenants of subsidized housing a platform to address their concerns regarding maintenance and management of HUD subsidized buildings.

For more information please contact:

Metropolitan Tenants Organization
Farid Muhammad
773.292.4980 x 236


Access Living
Deidre Brewster
312.640.2100 x 132

HUD Information


HUD: Housing Urban Development; the federal department in charge of assuring affordable housing throughout the country in cooperation with local government.

CHA: Chicago Housing Authority; the local governmental power which translates HUD regulations into city policies.

Loan Servicer: The person in charge of each HUD building and unit; tenants should find out who the loan servicer for their building is for problems like repairs.

Occupancy Specialist: The person assigned to each building/unit who deals with recertification and transfer requests.

This sheet covers federal government HUD programs. Anyone living in public housing projects or holding a city certificate should be counseled using the CHA Tenants Handbook – although be aware that HUD has recently taken over some public buildings and the old rules will not apply (in many cases the rent is increased).

1) Section 221 and 236: Under these programs, properties are privately owned by for-profit owners or non-profit organizations. In return for government subsidies, owners place limits on the rents as well as the income of entering tenants.

2) Project-based Section 8: The owner of the building is paid by HUD to maintain his units at an “affordable” rent. HUD provides a loan to the owner with a limited payback plan and at a below market interest rate. The subsidy is tied to the property, so only the current tenant in the unit receives the subsidy.


Many buildings under Sections 221, 236, or 8, which signed contracts 10-20 years ago, are now coming up for prepayment, which means that the owners can take out loans from independent lenders and therefore raise the rents; many tenants will call in panic, realizing that their rent ceiling has disappeared. The landlord must give a 60-day notice if the building is approved for prepayment.

3) Tenant-based Section 8: Tenants with Section 8 certificates or vouchers receive assistance in paying rent but are able to choose to some extent where they live. Typically, the household pays 30% of income toward rent.

a) Certificates: Using a HUD certificate, the tenant pays exactly 30% of adjusted income in a HUD-approved unit. The tenant must report any changes in income so that the rent contribution changes accordingly.

b) Vouchers: Tenants with HUD vouchers receive a fixed amount of government subsidy to be used in any unit meeting HUD quality standards. This flexibility allows the tenants to spend more or less than 30% of income for housing.



Moving: Tenants can only move if family size changes or if apartment is irreparably damaged {severe and verifiable health problems can also be a reason}. If the management refuses a transfer, the tenant can file a grievance and be granted a hearing by HUD. If the tenant has a voucher and wishes to move, the tenant’s local contact person or occupancy specialist is responsible for providing the correct paperwork.

Evictions: A tenant cannot be evicted without definite cause, either nonpayment of rent or extreme proof of negligent damage. HUD tenants must receive a 14-day rather than a 5-day notice for non-payment of rent. Termination of tenancy based on an alleged violation of the lease requires the same 10-day notice. If the tenant wishes to fight an eviction, a grievance should be sent to the management as well as to HUD requesting a hearing, and LAF should be contacted.


The amount of rent charged to each HUD tenant is different, since it is based on income. Tenants must report any change in income, and the management company or landlord is then responsible for sending a notice of rent change; the time line on this process will vary according to the building’s house rules and regulations.

Late Rent: If a tenant’s public assistance check arrives late, he/she should notify both the landlord/management and the social worker. It is a good idea to suggest that the tenant receive checks at a currency exchange, where proof of receipt can be obtained. The tenant has three days from receipt of the check to pay rent.

Repairs: If the tenant has had no luck obtaining needed repairs through management, the tenant’s loan officer should first be informed of the problem {although city inspectors can also be called}. Only after these two steps have been followed should a tenant use a 14-day notice.

Security Deposits: The security deposit should always equal the tenant’s rent; if the rent changes, so will the security deposit, although if rent decreases, no part of the original deposit will be returned. The tenant’s occupancy specialist can help with security deposit disputes.

Guests: Management CAN bar guests from visiting, as they must all check in at the desk, but a tenant can choose to fight a decision by getting a lawyer (LAF).

Landlord Entry: Management is supposed to give the regular 48-hour notice for entry but can require inspections and exterminations. HUD requires yearly inspections and gives management the license to judge an apartment’s neatness and cleanliness. It is difficult to prove harassment or illegal entry.