Eye On Illinois: With eviction moratorium ending, housing problems remain

Asked and answered.

On Aug. 31, I asked when the time would be right to stop the monthly extensions of Illinois’ eviction moratorium. On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker’s office said it his most recent order would expire Oct. 3.

In the interim, landlords are able to initiate legal proceedings on evictions, but law enforcement agencies can’t forcibly remove someone from a rental unit, though Capitol News Illinois reports there are exceptions for health and safety reasons as well as for people who won’t apply for rental assistance or sign off on paperwork showing their income is below a certain level or prove financial losses directly tied to COVID-19.

Tenants – and landlords – are not without rights or help. Unless you live in Cook County, if you’re presented with a summons for evictions proceeding it should also come with a form explaining the state court systems $60 million rental relief program. (Cook County should launch its own program next month.)

Anyone who thinks they might need to take advantage of assistance should be proactive and visit ilrpp.ihda.org or call the Illinois Housing Development Authority at 866-454-3571. Possible benefits include up to 12 months of past-due rent and three months of future rent – paid directly to landlords – a blend that seems targeted at trying to cover property owners’ losses while also giving tenants enough breathing room to make new arrangements.

Other places renters can look for help include illinoisrentalassistance.org (866-454-3571) and evictionhelpillinois.org (855-631-0811).

Hopefully this change in state policy doesn’t lead to an increase in homelessness, but the development might be a signal to those of a charitable spirit to locate the nearest shelter program and inquire about opportunities to help. The ongoing pandemic obviously has complicated matters for such efforts, given the difficulty of keeping clients, staff and volunteers safe in transitory settings.

Whether you’re motivated by concern for fellow humans or the deleterious effect of housing instability on local economies, employment markets and a community’s overall physical and mental health, homelessness is a persistent problem Illinoisans would do well to address.

Though the end of the eviction moratorium may be well timed with respect to the pandemic – in some corners this shift might be seen as a sign of optimism that we’re progressing back toward something resembling normal – the affordable housing shortage and growing income gaps were issues well before coronavirus and require solutions beyond what one governor can manage through executive order.

The General Assembly may be ill-equipped to provide blanket solutions, so city and county officials should prepare to address local concerns. There’s not much time between now and Oct. 3, and hopefully problems with lifting the moratorium will be minimal, but this change was always an inevitability.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.