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Suffredin Introduces Amendment to Cook County Human Rights Ordinance To Include Protection for Housing Choice Voucher Holders

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Special to

September 16, 2003, Chicago, IL. Today, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D - District 13) along with Commissioners Bobbie L. Steele (D - District 2), John P. Daley (D - District 11) and Mike Quigley (D - District 10), introduced an amendment to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance which will protect renters from being discriminated against as a result of the "source of income" (the means used to support themselves and dependents) that they use to pay their rent.

The Amendment, similar to measures adopted by the City of Chicago, the District of Columbia and numerous states, broadens the definition of "source of income" to include federal Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly known as the tenant-based Section 8 voucher program). The federal Housing Choice Voucher Program is a rental subsidy program that helps low-income households access decent, safe and affordable housing.

33,000 households in Cook County have their rent subsidized by the Housing Choice Voucher program. It is particularly difficult for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and families with children to access affordable housing without the aid of rental assistance. Commissioner Suffredin is optimistic about the policy implications of the Amendment for the elderly. "This amendment will assist countless Cook County residents in need of rental assistance for affordable of housing, many of whom are elderly, disabled or both," commented, Commissioner Suffredin.

With respect to concerns raised by opponents of the measure, Commissioner Suffredin added, "the vast majority of tenants with housing choice vouchers are good tenants that should not be judged - should not be discriminated against - simply because of unfair stereotypes."

It is important to note that under the Amendment, small landlords, specifically, three units or less, owner occupied, would not be subject to a discrimination charge if they refused to rent to someone solely on the basis that they are a voucher recipient. However, like the federal fair housing laws, these landlords could not advertise their rental practices.

The sponsors of the Amendment requested that the Amendment be referred to the County Board's Human Relations Committee for further review.

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