New Illinois laws prevent housing discrimination based on income, expand capitol accessibility

An affordable housing complex in Springfield, Illinois.
An affordable housing complex in Springfield, Illinois.(Mike Miletich)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Gov. JB Pritzker signed two bills into law Monday to address inequities for people with disabilities in Illinois. One law adds fair housing protections to the state’s Human Rights Act in hopes to stop discrimination against people trying to get affordable housing based on their legal source of income.

This change applies to non-employment income such as section 8 vouchers or disability payments. For example, this law could help veterans paying for housing with veterans benefits or other housing vouchers. Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) explained in March that it would also help single mothers paying to house their families with child support or alimony payments.

“No should be denied housing when they have the means to make the rent,” Villivalam said Monday. “This measure will protect individuals on government assistance, single mothers receiving child support, and seniors on fixed incomes who may have been turning away from housing in the past.”

The legislation defines “source of income” as the lawful manner by which someone supports themselves and their dependents. The Illinois Department of Human Rights said refusing to rent to a housing applicant because of their income disproportionately impacts renters of color, women and people with disabilities. Director Jim Bennett explained it took hard work by housing rights advocates and agency staff to get the bill to the governor’s desk.

“House Bill 2775 ensures that a single parent in Quincy, a veteran in Murphysboro, or a retiree in East Peoria can now seek affordable housing without fear that their lawful source of income will be rejected,” Bennett said.

House sponsor La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) said the new protections will ensure a more just and equitable housing market and address systemic racial and economic segregation in Illinois. Ford noted state leaders must continue to work with housing experts, realtors and landlords to meet the needs of those at risk of homelessness and people currently experiencing homelessness.

“For people with disabilities in particular, this law will provide a pathway to living independently in the community,” said Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing Member at Access Living Nabi Yisreal.

The second law will expand accessibility at the Illinois capitol complex with a new General Assembly accessibility task force. Sponsors pushed to ensure there are people who self-identify as having a disability as members of the task force. They will help provide recommendations to allow people with disabilities to fully participate in legislative meetings, hearings, and any other events inside the statehouse.

“Our disabled communities deserve a seat at the table - and this bill does exactly that. When disabled Illinoisans come to our Capitol, they will be welcomed, accommodated, and heard,” Pritzker said. “Since day one, my administration has prioritized support for our disabled population and I am proud to sign both of these bills into law - furthering that work.”

Senate Bill 180 also allows people to request accessibility options for hearings, meetings, press conferences and floor procedures through the Illinois General Assembly’s website. Access Living Advocacy Director Amber Smock said one in four Illinoisans live with at least one disability and accessible engagement with lawmakers has become more critical than ever.

“In our experience, ensuring full accessibility tends to benefit everyone, not just those with disabilities,” Smock said. “This new law will provide for much-needed structure and support so that our legislators can truly hear from all who live in Illinois.”

The task force is required to submit recommendations on ways to improve accessibility for all by December 31, 2023. Members of the task force will serve through January 1, 2025.

Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said this law will help lawmakers understand the challenges people face and identify ways to achieve the goal of full participation for all Illinoisans.

“I do hope and expect this bill will be just the beginning in terms of ensuring access for people with disabilities to all aspects of the process at all levels of government in Illinois,” Williams said.

The House Speaker and Senate President will appoint an accessibility coordinator who will work with the architect of the capitol to address accessibility needs for their chambers.

“The Capitol Grounds belong to all the people,” said Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “Everyone, regardless of the nature of their disability, should be able to navigate their way through our public spaces.”

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