Illinois Justice Project

Question Six

Housing

Throughout the county, Chicago has one of the highest rates and absolute number of people without housing, with nearly 6,000 people in Chicago who lack housing on any given night. One study showed 54 percent of those without housing had been incarcerated in the past, now facing barriers including landlord restrictions on tenants with criminal histories and restricted access to public housing.  These barriers persist even though some academics have concluded that there is no predictive value of a criminal record in the housing context.  What is known is that housing instability often leads to re-arrest and re-incarceration.

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As Mayor of Chicago, what efforts would you make to remove barriers to housing for previously incarcerated individuals thereby helping to reduce the recidivism rate?  Would you expand legal protections?  Would you provide greater financial incentives for landlords?

Access to stable housing is critical to reducing recidivism. Nationally, more than 10% of those coming in and out of prisons and jail are homeless in the months before and after their incarceration. The lack of access to reliable housing places huge strains on returning citizens and their families, depriving them of a necessary foundation for a stable life. Moreover, it has significant social and economic costs as returning citizens become homeless, cannot find work, re-offend and/or return to jail or prison.

 In an effort to increase access to stable housing, my administration will:

 ●  Draft and work to pass a “fair chance” ordinance that prohibits landlords from imposing blanket bans on renting to an individual based on his or her criminal record. Instead, landlords would be required to conduct an individualized analysis of an applicant’s conviction history, including whether the individual poses a threat to the public and the community, the amount of time since the person’s conviction, evidence of rehabilitation and other mitigating circumstances. Policies such as these not only make sense, but they move our policies into alignment with the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 ●  Reform Chicago Housing Authority (“CHA”) practices that discriminate against people with arrest records by prohibiting CHA from denying housing to individuals based on arrest and conviction records, and evicting people from CHA because of their records.

 ●  Increase access to temporary housing so a person’s stay in jail or prison does not exceed his or her sentence. Many people remain incarcerated after their scheduled release dates simply because they have nowhere to go upon release. Rather than spend $143 per day to incarcerate a person, the city should work with Cook County and the state to invest this money into creating more temporary housing.

 ●   Increase access to transitional housing so returning citizens who are waiting to get into treatment, education and/or job training programs have a stable place to live. The city can work with providers and other units of government to create and expand programs like the University of Illinois Health and Hospital System’s Better Health through Housing Initiative, which places people in “bridge units” until longer term housing arrangements can be secured.


●   Improve access to permanent affordable housing. People with arrest and conviction records often face barriers to securing permanent housing, even years after their release. This issue will not be addressed until landlords and property owners are incentivized to lease to people with records, or until incentives are given to prospective property owners to purchase land or property specifically for mixed-use and mixed-income housing that includes slots for people with arrest or criminal records.


As Mayor of Chicago, what efforts would you make to remove barriers to housing for previously incarcerated individuals thereby helping to reduce the recidivism rate?  Would you expand legal protections?  Would you provide greater financial incentives for landlords?

As President of the Cook County Board, I oversaw the opening of Cook County Public Housing to returning residents to the extent permitted by federal law.   I certainly think the Chicago Housing Authority should be as proactive.  We also recognized the special needs of returning residents by funding housing programs as part of our recidivism reduction efforts.  This funding encouraged private sector innovation and productive partnerships.  For example, IMAN, the Inner City Muslim Network Action program, received funding from the County to house and provide construction training for men released from prison.  In addition, IMAN received abandoned houses to repair from the Cook County Land Bank.  That program should be expanded throughout Chicago.

I would look at expanded legal protections for returning residents in consultation with the property owners and managers who provide our best affordable housing.  It should be remembered that overall Chicago needs to offer a great deal more affordable housing to returning residents and to many other residents with no justice involvement who need housing.

Preckwinkle

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