Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 3:00 pm | Updated: 4:26 pm, Wed Sep 3, 2014.
By TOM ROBB Journal & Topics Reporter
A new North suburban fair housing study concluded that generally, municipal leaders expressed support for population diversity and fair housing laws but, “differed in their philosophy of ‘advertising’ this support publicly.”
Advocacy group Open Communities released an extensive three-year study on fair access to affordable housing in the Northern suburbs last month. The study, which was conducted between May 2011 and April 2014, looked at 15 area communities including Glenview, Niles, Park Ridge, Northbrook, Winnetka, Wilmette, Skokie, Morton Grove, Deerfield, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Lincolnwood and Evanston.
Glenview faced criticism last year from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and others after adopting a fair housing ordinance days before a countywide housing ordinance would have gone into effect.
The Glenview ordinance used home rule authority to “keep the status quo” regarding housing subsidy vouchers that the new county ordinance would have mandated all landlords accept.
At the time, Glenview Village President Jim Patterson said the village would revisit the issue after staff had more time to study the issue. A workshop on that issue with the Housing Authority of Cook County is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18 at Glenview Village Hall, Glenview Communications Director Lynne Stiefel said.
“I have read the study, and it appears to lack context and specificity with regards to Glenview,” Patterson said in an email to the Journal. “To be honest, we have never had an issue reported to us with regard to housing discrimination and I am not even sure if they are including unincorporated Glenview in their results.
“The September workshop will be to assess the new Cook County regulations now that a year has passed and the interested stakeholders have been invited.
The study analyzed housing data, conducted focus groups analyzing perceptions on suburban communities by outsiders, conducted fair housing audits and tests, reviewed local ordinances and studied real estate marketing practices.
The study was funded through a federal grant from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Discrimination was found in the study mostly among disabled people trying to find good, affordable housing in the Northern suburbs.
Racial discrimination persists in the rental and real estate ownership markets, but Open Communities found few complaints lodged about racial discrimination as few blacks and Latinos are seeking housing in the predominantly white Northern suburbs, focus groups engaged in the study said.
The perception of the Northern suburbs, documented in a similar 2012 study, persists in this study to be white, affluent and closed, the 2014 study said.
Six focus groups — 10 people each including black, white and Latino renters and homeowners — said they felt the Northern suburbs were inaccessible because of high housing costs, a sense of hostility and in some cases experiences of discrimination.
Focus groups found notable exceptions to this in Skokie and Evanston.
“I wouldn’t even feel comfortable living out there. For one, you already know you’re not welcome there. Because of the way they look at you, the way they treat you and it’s not even really an income thing, because they are out there struggling too, believe it or not,” an African American renter was quoted in the study as saying.
Open Communities conducted testing of landlords in 14 communities between 2012 and 2014 by sending in applicants with nearly identical applications, but differing in the areas of race, sex, existence of a family status, national origin, religion and disability.
Potential discrimination was found across the entire region in the rental market most often based on race, 37% of the time, on national origin 36% of the time, on disability 27% of the time and on familial status (whether an applicant was single or had a family) 20% of the time. Required verifications of employment and income were reported by testers of color, but not by white testers.
Disabled testers were often told they would require higher deposits if they were to have service animals in units.
The study compared 15 elements in fair housing ordinances in 16 communities’ fair housing ordinances using federal fair housing act standards as a benchmark.
Standards included protections for race, color, religion/creed, sex/gender, national origin, parental status, disability, age, military discharge, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, source of income, housing status (homelessness), or order of protection status.
Within source of income, three communities — Glenview, Skokie and Wilmette — exempted housing vouchers from being considered as an income source.
Seven communities including Glenview, Niles, Northbrook, Deerfield, Glencoe, Wilmette and Highland Park do not provide the same levels of protection as the federal law does. Two communities, Kenilworth and Winnetka, do not address fair housing on a local level.
Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo said his community would soon update the village’s fair housing ordinances.
Six communities including Park Ridge, Northfield, Skokie, Evanston, Lincolnwood and Morton Grove have ordinances exceeding the federal standards.