Against substantial REALTOR® opposition, the Cook County Board on May 8 passed a measure making it a human rights violation for landlords to opt out of the federal Section 8 housing program. The new rule passed by a 9-6 margin and will go into effect on August 8. Now, Illinois Association of REALTOR® advocates are trying to gain more details on how the policy will be implemented so the Association can work with members to tell them what to expect.
IAR concerns include the time it takes for the inspection process to be completed by housing officials certifying that the dwelling is acceptable for rental and the bureaucratic process that landlords would have to navigate in order to rent to a Section 8 voucher holder.
IAR has sent a letter to the County’s Human Rights Department requesting information about compliance with the new law. Specific questions regarding tenant review, procedures on renting to a voucher holder and approval of a residential unit were included in this letter. At press time, IAR has not received a response.
IAR will be providing information to members as it becomes available from the County.
The federal Section 8 program – now called the Housing Choice Voucher program – was established in 1937 and is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Cook County Housing Authority. Historically the Section 8 program, which offers rental assistance to those with low incomes, was seen as voluntary on the part of landlords.
The Cook County Board's move was pitched as a move to end discrimination against voucher holders. This new protection will be included in the ordinance's “Source of Income” definition. This protection will join other protections already in place which guard against discrimination due to race, sex, age, disability and sexual orientation. The new ordinance would apply to all rental units in Cook County. Even single-family homes that are rented are included under the provision. The city of Chicago has had an ordinance for nearly two decades which is similar to the one passed by Cook County.