The Just Housing Amendment

Home is the cornerstone from which people build better lives for themselves and their families. People with records, like everyone else, deserve a place to call home.

But it can be almost impossible for them to find an apartment or house to rent.

This is a community-wide problem. Many people living in Cook County have records, and when they can’t find homes, it affects not only them but also their families and everyone in their communities.

1 in 3 Americans has an arrest record
by the age of 23, regardless of race or

This translates into well over 1 million residents with records
in Cook County.
Almost two thirds of people in prison (62%) in Illinois are parents to children under 18.

Their ability to build a good, stable home
affects their children.

Stable housing opportunities for people with records are key to reducing recidivism and helping us build stronger, safer communities

People re-entering communities with
stable housing are
much less likely to end
up back in prison
than those facing

Each event of recidivism in Illinois costs more than $150,000.
Residents who have been incarcerated are almost 10 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general public.

Experiencing homelessness only makes it more difficult to find a job, care for your children, and rebuild your life.

Housing policies that ban people with records harm people of color and people with disabilities the most

Children blowing bubbles; housing policies that harm people with records harm people of color
Illinois has large racial and ethnic disparities in our prisons and our jails.

This affects families and communities of color. Nationally, 63% of Black and Native American adults and 48% of Latinx adults have had an immediate family member spend at least one night in jail or prison compared to just 42% of white adults.

The Just Housing Amendment will ensure that people with records have equal access to housing opportunities in Cook County.

Introduced by Chief Sponsor Commissioner Brandon Johnson, voted into law by the Cook County Board of Commissioners on April 25, and effective as of October 25, 2019, the Just Housing Amendment will:

Just Housing Amendment will require housing providers to consider an application first

Require housing providers to consider an application before inquiring about a
potential tenant’s criminal history

Family in home; Amendment will ban discrimination in real estate transactions

Ban discrimination in real estate transactions based on an arrest record, citation, juvenile record, sealed or expunged record, or participation in a deferral or judgment program

Housing providers can't automatically reject an applicant based on a conviction

Keep housing providers from automatically rejecting an applicant based on a conviction; they will need to consider factors such as evidence of rehabilitation, length of time since the conviction, and the nature and severity of the crime

Not a new idea

Other jurisdictions in Illinois already offer protections for people with records. In municipalities such as Urbana, Illinois, people with records are considered a protected class in housing-related transactions, and the use of criminal histories in housing decisions is expressly prohibited.

Amendment will support families, especially children of parents with arrest and conviction records

A common sense, basic step

We all want to live in a fair, safe community. This amendment will help reduce recidivism and protect children and families from the consequences of housing instability.

With this amendment, we will

  • Help create a second chance for people who have been arrested or served sentences
  • Support families affected by incarceration, enabling parents to provide for their children and making it more possible for people who have been incarcerated to rejoin and live with family members
  • Support successful reentry and reduce recidivism, which also saves Illinois taxpayers money (each event of recidivism costs more than $150,000).
  • Take another step towards racial justice, since communities of color are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated and as such are also disproportionately affected by housing discrimination against people with records

Passing this amendment will help people like…

Quotes from No Place to Call Home: Navigating Reentry in Chicago, by Roosevelt University Policy Research Collaborative and BPI, 2018


The Just Housing Initiative is a coalition of individuals with arrest and conviction records, social service providers, community organizers, legal and policy experts, housing and criminal justice advocates who have come together to address housing barriers faced by individuals with arrest and conviction records. Organizations who support our initiative include:

Access Living
ACLU of Illinois
Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance
All Chicago
Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County
Apna Ghar
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chicago
Assata’s Daughters
Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park
Beds Plus
Bethel New Life
Block Together
Breakthrough Urban Ministries
Business and Professional People for the Public Interest
Cabrini Green Legal Aid
Catholic Charities
Charles P. Fischbach, Former Commissioner, City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice
Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Chicago Community Bond Fund
Chicago Council of Lawyers
Chicago House and Social Service Agency
Chicago Jobs Council
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Chicago Urban League
Claretian Associates
Coalition for Equitable Community Development
Community Renewal Society
Connections for the Homeless
Connections of Illinois
Communities United
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Deborah’s Place
Evanston Northshore NAACP
EZRA Multi-Service Center
Facing Forward to End Homelessness
Faith Community Homes
Fellowship Housing
First Congregational UCC, Evanston
First Unitarian Criminal Justice Task Force
Ford Heights Community Service Organization
Greater West Town Training Partnership
Growing Home Inc.
Health and Medicine Policy Research Group
Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs
HOPE Fair Housing Center
Housing Action Illinois
Housing Choice Partners
Housing Forward
Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.)
Housing Taskforce
Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ
Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University
Impact Behavioral Health Partners
Independent Voters of Illinois- Independent Precinct Organization
Inspiration Corporation
Interfaith Coalition Against Racism
James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
Jane Adams Senior Caucus
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
John Howard Association of Illinois
John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic
Journeys: The Road Home
Justice and Witness Ministry, of the Chicago Metropolitan Association, United Church of Christ
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
Latino Policy Forum
Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA)
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing
Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services
Lincoln Park Community Services
Mental Health America of Illinois
Mental Health Summit
Metropolitan Planning Council
Metropolitan Tenants Organization
Mothers Against Senseless Killings
Northside Housing and Supportive Services
NAMI Chicago
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Housing Law Project
Nehemiah Trinity Rising
Northwest Compass
Northwest Side Housing Center
Northwestern Rethink Relink Chicago!
Oak Park Regional Housing Center
ONE Northside
Open Communities
People for Community Recovery
Progress Center for Independent Living
Project Irene
Respond Now
Restaurant Opportunities Center
Restore Justice
Safer Foundation
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
SEIU Healthcare Illinois
South Suburban Housing Center
South Suburban PADS
Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP)
Southwest Organizing Project
Strengthening Chicago’s Youth
Supportive Housing Providers Association of Illinois
TASC, Inc.
The Center of Concern
The Next Movement
The Resurrection Project
Together We Cope
Uptown People’s Law Center
United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations
Westside Health Authority
Woodstock Institute
Working Family Solidarity

If your organization cares about helping people with records find a place to call home, contact

Get Involved

Join the Just Housing Initiative
Does your organization want to join our coalition in working to tear down barriers to housing for people with arrest and conviction records?

Email us

Thank Supportive Commissioners
Only two Cook County Commissioners voted no on the Just
Housing Amendment!

Contact your commissioner

A huge thank you to everyone who came out on April 24 to show support for the amendment during a hearing by the Human Relations Committee and helped make sure the proposal moved forward!

Next up, we need to get out and educate Cook County! We’ll need to help applicants understand their rights and to inform landlords about the new fair housing protections. Stay tuned for how you can help.