Tell us about your organization’s mission and/or focus area
Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. Our 140+ member organizations include homeless service providers, housing counseling agencies, developers of affordable housing and policymakers. We bring everyone together to work toward our vision of an Illinois where everyone has a stable, good home.
Describe a current challenge in your community and how your organization is addressing this
COVID-19 is laying bare the already existing inequities in our communities. Infection rates and other health issues are higher in formerly redlined neighborhoods. In response to the pandemic, we have focused on: supporting homeless service providers working on the frontlines, and we were able to subgrant $485,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to 30 agencies; advocating for funding for rent relief and other critical investments to stabilize our communities; and supporting housing counseling agencies through training, guidance and pass-through funding as they transition to offering many services virtually.
How have you collaborated, or would you like to collaborate with other organizations to successfully achieve a goal?
As a coalition, collaboration is at the heart of our work. Since our founding, when 46 housing nonprofits came together to advocate successfully for establishing an Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we’ve grown to 140+ members and have spent three decades partnering to pass policies to end homelessness and expand affordable housing, launch programmatic initiatives, secure pass-through HUD funding for housing counseling agencies, place AmeriCorps members with host nonprofits, and build relationships between funders and local organizations.
Recently, we joined with partners to form an Illinois CRA to work on protecting and strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA); collaborated with advocacy allies to pass a tenant landlord ordinance in Cook County; and partnered with peers in other states to bring our annual conference as part of a national, virtual two-week community development forum.
Please share a success story or memorable moment from your work
One in three Americans has an arrest record before they turn 23. Blanket housing bans against people with records disproportionately impact Black and Brown families as well as people with disabilities; they are often an avenue for race- and disability-based discrimination. In 2019, we co-led a campaign to pass the Just Housing Amendment, creating protections against housing discrimination for people with arrest and conviction records in Cook County.
This victory is all the more notable given the significant opposition that the Just Housing Initiative and our supporters faced. We spent four years working to pass the Just Housing Amendment and another seven months working to pass rules to implement it. Together, the Just Housing Initiative’s 100+ supporting organizations and allies prevailed, and we are grateful to everyone who wrote and called the commissioners, testified at hearings, spoke with decision makers, and otherwise supported the amendment.
In 2020, with the amendment in effect—giving more than one million people a fair chance at finding housing—we began working to help applicants understand their rights and to inform landlords about the new protections.
More success stories can be found in our report Silver Linings 2020.
What prompted you to join NCRC?
NCRC’s mission and work aligns with our vision of an Illinois where everyone has a good, safe, affordable home and connects us with national efforts to build thriving communities.
Kristin Ginger is the Manager of Communications & Development at Housing Action Illinois.
Photo of Just Housing Leader Gianna Baker courtesy of Housing Action Illinois.