Former Lt. Governor of Illinois now devoted to fighting for fair housing in Chicago suburbs

As Evelyn Sanguinetti transitions to addressing fair housing after previously serving for four years as lieutenant governor of Illinois, she describes the kinds of housing discrimination that occur:

brick building facade on cold clear day

Photo by Nick Bondarev on Pexels.com

Discrimination takes so many different forms. It’s not as apparent as it once was decades ago. The wrongdoers have become better at this sort of illegal activity. You will see it taking the form of lying about the availability of housing or home loans or home insurance, or applying a no-pets policy on service animals. You will see discrimination in the way of illegal steering. So when a prospective tenant wants to look at one apartment, the company showing the apartments says, “No, no, you really want to look a few blocks over; that’s where you really want to go.” A lot of people do not know their rights and they do not realize that this is what’s occurring. Another form it takes is offering different terms or conditions to members of a protected class, such as requiring sex in exchange for rent.

You see discrimination in the form of constructing inaccessible buildings — that’s a big one, too. A lot of the cases that we have pending and a lot of the work we do from a previous settlement, is we make improvements to make housing accessible to people with disabilities.

Another form of discrimination is saying, “No children allowed,”bwhich to me is like a stake straight at my heart. I grew up with my abuelita, my great-grandparents. I mean, there were a lot of us in one household and a lot of children. But the wrongdoers also find a way of making sure children are not allowed. Well, children need to live somewhere.

This sort of discrimination is often quietly done and scattered across locations. It rarely comes up in the news. It may be hard for people to guess how often it happens. The people affected by it may not know how to fight back or bring the issue to light.

Some of the issue might be defining fair housing. Sanguinetti explains the concept:

There’s always this conclusion that goes on with a lot of people like, “Fair housing? Free housing! That’s cool.” And I’m thinking, “No, no.” The Fair Housing Act provides that if you have the resources to live where you want, but you’re being prevented from doing so because you’re a member of a protected class, that’s illegal.

I imagine some might confuse fair housing with affordable housing which is often about providing housing for those who do not have the resources to live in a place. If we do not have a foundation of fair housing, it would be even harder to make the case for affordable housing – which is hard enough in many suburbs.

At the same time, efforts which help ensure fair housing do not necessarily help with getting residents resources (jobs, income, wealth, connections, etc.) that would help them access housing). Fair housing addresses the housing side once people try to acquire housing. Work is also needed on the other end in helping people get to a point where they can have housing choices that help them meet their goals.