Here’s what Chicago can do to slash the 23K evictions filed every year: lawyer group

A report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing found eviction rates in black neighborhoods are more than twice the city average

May.May 16, 2019 11:00 AM
1 in 25 renters in the city faces an eviction notice from their landlord each year (Credit: iStock)

1 in 25 renters in the city faces an eviction notice from their landlord each year (Credit: iStock)

A tenant in South Shore is more than 14 times more likely to face eviction than someone renting an apartment in Lakeview.

That was one finding in a trove of data released Thursday by a tenant advocacy group that found sharp racial disparities in the more than 160,000 eviction filings processed in Chicago between 2010 and 2017.

The report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing found about 1 in 25 renters in the city faces an eviction notice from their landlord each year, but the rate is at least twice as high in mostly African-American neighborhoods on the South and West sides

About 60 percent of filings ended in eviction orders, the report found. But even for tenants who win, the ordeal of being dragged to eviction court can have consequences for their future ability to find a home, according to Mark Swartz, executive director of the committee.

“Our data highlight a series of problems we must solve if the city is to have decent, fair and affordable housing — and help point the way toward some of those solutions, as well,” Swartz said in a statement.

More than 80 percent of eviction cases filed between 2010 and 2017 were for less than $2,500 owed in back rent, the report found. The committee went on to advocate for the city to boost its rental assistance programs to help tenants who were falling behind.

The group also advocates following New York City in providing free legal representation to tenants, which it says could even the playing field against landlords. Just 22 percent of Chicago cases in which tenants were represented by legal aid attorneys led to eviction orders, compared to 62 percent in cases where renters had no attorney present.

Still, landlords argue they don’t bring tenants to eviction court unless they’ve exhausted all other options. City rules prevent landlords from recouping legal fees from eviction cases, even if they win, one attorney told the Chicago Tribune.

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