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Fair Housing & Lending Project

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Substandard segregated housing in minority communities amplifies the effect of economic, political, and educational differences, and leads to inequality of many kinds of opportunities, with far-reaching impact on quality of life. By contrast, fair, integrated housing leads directly to equality of environment, healthcare, and education, and strongly assists equality of employment opportunities through access to jobs. Therefore, the Fair Housing Project champions integration by educating people in minority communities about their rights under the fair housing and fair lending laws, investigating complaints of fair housing discrimination, and providing or securing pro bono (free) legal services to individuals and groups who wish to exercise their fair housing rights and secure equal housing opportunities. We accept cases involving discrimination in rental, sales, mortgage lending [hotlink1], homeowners' insurance and advertising [hotlink2]. Our work challenges discrimination in rental and private markets as well as in public and assisted housing.

Everyone has the right to live where they want to live, free from discrimination

Chicago remains one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the United States, despite active efforts opposing it. Groups in addition to African-Americans also experience significant discrimination, including Latinos, families, and people with disabilities. The mission of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Fair Housing Project is to eliminate housing discrimination based on race, national origin, familial status, physical and mental disability, sexual orientation, source of income, religion, gender, and other bases, to affirmatively further fair housing in the Chicago metropolitan area. 
 
To achieve that mission, staff and volunteers with the Fair Housing Project:
 
  • educate tenants, homeowners, landlords, and others about their rights and duties under fair housing and fair lending laws, 
  • advocate for progressive laws and public policies,
  • conduct intake, referral, and investigation of housing discrimination complaints, and
  • provide legal representation to individuals and groups in asserting and enforcing their fair housing rights and securing equal housing opportunities. 
Working hand-in-hand with a talented and dedicated pool of pro bono attorneys from Chicago Lawyers’ Committee member law firms, the Fair Housing Project is reducing housing discrimination in the Chicago area.
 
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee is part of an area-wide network called CAFHA (Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance), which works to combat housing discrimination and promote integrated communities of opportunity through research, education, and advocacy. 

What do Fair Housing Laws prohibit, and who do they protect?

All discrimination laws specify protected classes and prohibited acts.  Under federal, Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago law, it is illegal to engage in the following prohibited acts against someone based on one of the following characteristics, which are called protected classes.
 
Protected Classes Prohibited Acts
  • race 
  • national origin and ancestry
  • familial status 
  • disability
  • sexual orientation identity
  • source of income, including Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly Section 8)
  • religion 
  • gender or gender identity
  • age
  • marital status
  • military status and unfavorable military discharge status, and
  • [domestic violence] order of protection status
  • refuse to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing
  • falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental 
  • advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference in housing
  • engage in steering, which is limiting access to available housing based on discrimination 
  • set different terms, conditions or privileges in the sale or rental of housing, or in occupying housing after acquiring it
  • provide different housing services or facilities
  • refuse to provide reasonable accommodations or to allow reasonable modifications to housing for people with disabilities
  • coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of their fair housing rights, and 
  • for residential lenders, to refuse to lend or set different loan terms or conditions

Note that not all laws cover all protected classes or all prohibited acts.  Consult with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, a civil rights government agency, or a private attorney to determine the laws’ application to particular situations.  If you believe you have been discriminated against, want to volunteer, or want to request a fair housing speaker or training, contact us.