Illinois Introduces ‘Community Safety Through Stable Homes Act’ to Combat Unjust Local Rent Laws  

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

By Jonathan Nunez and Olivia Biliunas

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Crime-Free Housing and Nuisance Property Ordinances (CFNOs) are local laws that “penalize renters and housing providers for contact with law enforcement and often violate fair housing and other civil rights laws,” according to a statement here issued by the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) this week.

NHLP then applauded the Community Safety Through Stable Homes Act Coalition, authored by state Sen. Karina Villa (25th District) and state Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th District) to combat what the lawmakers claim are CFNOs’ misguided mandates.

According to the NHLP, at least 145 jurisdictions in Illinois have enacted CFNOs with a belief it would ultimately help their communities fight crime. 

However, it could be argued, said NHLP, that CFNOs are a crime because enforcing CFNOs “results in unjust evictions, discriminatory practices that criminalize those in need of emergency assistance, and exclusion of renters based on alleged criminal activity or contact with law enforcement.”

Jackie Koriath, an advocate against domestic violence from The Network, said, “CFNOs have the unintended consequences of isolating survivors of domestic and sexual violence, making them afraid to contact law enforcement or emergency services, and creating situations where they need to choose between their safety and their housing.”

Koriath added that, ultimately, CFNOs threaten the safety of community members who seek the protection of law enforcement.

“CFNOs have often been enacted during periods of perceived or actual demographic change in a community, disproportionately targeting people of color and reinforcing regional patterns of segregation,” noted Dominic Voz of Open Communities.

A Chicago Sun-Times story by Elvia Malagón recounts how Diamond Jones, a Chicago Lawyers’ Committee client, was terminated from her residence in Richton Park, IL, for breaking the city’s crime-free ordinance.

Malagón writes in the article that, although these crime-free ordinances are not new or unique to Richton Park, they are overwhelmingly affecting minority communities.

The Chicago Sun-Times article noted Jones didn’t hesitate to sign the crime-free ordinance addendum but later had to move out of her house after her mother aiding a shooting victim in proximity to her house.

The family doesn’t believe they were suspects in the shootings,” Jones said. “They thought they were witnesses who were cooperating with the investigations,” writes Malagón. The author also states Jones never got an answer as to why her lease was terminated and that she wants to seek justice so that this won’t happen to anyone else.

The Community Safety Through Stable Homes Act will directly combat these ordinances, said NHLP, noting the measure “will prevent discrimination and displacement, help people contact emergency services without fear, and put the focus on better responses to crime.”

NHLP said the legislation will prohibit local landlords from evicting tenants based on alleged criminal or nuisance behavior, and prohibit landlords from evicting families of tenants after a singular interaction with law enforcement.

Rep. Ford, chief sponsor of the bill, said, “Making our communities safer should be a top priority, but there is simply no evidence that crime-free ordinances reduce crime. Instead, they unfairly punish renters and property owners.”

CFNOs are detrimentally harmful for community members, added Ford, noting, “This bill (Community Safety Through Stable Homes Act) will address the harm that CFNOs cause without altering the ability of property owners to initiate nuisance-related evictions or changing the power of local governments to prosecute criminal activity.”

Recently, in an AP story, Kate Walz, assistant litigation director for the National Housing Law Project, said, “Policing doesn’t make them safer or better, and then you add to this, this threat to destabilize their housing, to displace them from their family. Illinois has the opportunity to be a leader on this issue and join California and Maryland, states which recently took action to curtail or prohibit the use of these ordinances.” 

About The Author

Jonathan is a fourth year UC Davis student pursuing a major in English and a minor in Professional Writing and African American Studies. By working alongside the Vanguard Court Watch, Jonathan not only hopes to deepen his passion for criminal justice, but he also wishes to deepen the connection he has with his community through his writing. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys hanging out with his friends and making short stories about the world around him.

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