Mission & Staff
The Housing Opportunity Project focuses on systemic litigation and advocacy to combat housing discrimination and barriers to opportunity. We investigate complaints of discrimination throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, educate people about fair housing rights and obligations and provide representation to individuals and groups to challenge discriminatory policies and practices based on race, national origin and other protected classes. We also engage in advocacy supporting equitable development and investment in historically disinvested communities of color supporting the stabilization and improvement of housing.
Source of Income Discrimination
Recently, we have attacked source of income discrimination on many levels. Housing Choice Vouchers, formerly called Section 8, are federal subsidies that allow low-income families to rent housing in the private market. Chicago outlawed source of income discrimination more than 25 years ago, and Cook County followed suit in 2013. However, our testing in Chicago reveals that housing providers discriminate against tenants based on voucher status 32% of the time, and Cook County testing showed similar widespread discrimination. The Housing Opportunity Project is working to address the problem systemically, representing tenants with claims, and educating landlords and tenants. Housing Choice Voucher discrimination contributes to ongoing segregation in Cook County by keeping qualified renters, most of whom are Black, out of areas of opportunity with access to better schools, jobs, and other amenities.
Key Project Staff
Aneel Chablani, Advocacy Director
Barbara Barreno-Paschall, Senior Staff Attorney
Josefina Navar, Senior Fair Housing Testing & Investigations Coordinator
Mary Jo Noriega, Testing Coordinator
Josh Koenig, Intake Specialist
Rachel Schwartz, AmeriCorps VISTA
On December 14, 2017, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and Logan Square Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit in circuit court alleging that the office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios conducts assessments that systematically and illegally shift residential property tax burdens from Whites to Hispanics and African-Americans, and from the rich to the poor. Download the complaint, learn about the case, and submit your own comments below.
April 2018 marks 50 years since the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act. In light of this historic milestone, six organizations are convening a one-day community summit at Roosevelt University on April 28 called Our Chicago: The Fight and Future of Fair Housing at 50. We recently took a step back from the logistical work to reflect on the significance of the occasion with our colleagues, Amrita Narasimhan and Barbara Barreno-Paschall.
The south suburbs of Chicago, whose demographics have changed rapidly in recent years, are home to many families struggling with the cost of housing.
The complaint asks the court to declare the Cook County Assessor’s assessment system unlawful, and to order Berrios’ office to adopt and implement a fair, accurate, transparent, lawful, and nondiscriminatory system. It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the process.
"Housing discrimination personally offends me because of my background."
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee has a pool of about 33 testers and conducts roughly 140 tests every year.
“It made me feel like, am I good enough to be in an opportunity area? And it made me stop my search. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t just say ‘I don’t want to be bothered with it.’ Everybody deserves a chance.”