CHICAGO | The Cook County Board approved a resolution Wednesday requiring landlords to accept vouchers meant to help low-income people pay their rent, despite the concerns of an area commissioner who fears it will lead to an overload of poorer people living in the suburbs near the Illinois/Indiana border.
The resolution approved by a 9-6 vote says landlords in Cook County cannot exempt themselves out of participation in the Housing Choice program administered by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Supporters say they believe many landlords who refuse to accept such vouchers are doing so for racially motivated reasons. They also think it will create more housing options for lower-income people.
Yet Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, whose district includes much of the area along the Illinois/Indiana border, said many area village presidents and mayors told her to oppose this measure.
“There has been a firm increase of Section 8 residents in my part of the county. There already are a huge number of Section 8 residents, and that could increase even more,” Murphy said. “This is a real problem for some of the mayors in my district.”
Commissioner Deborah Sims concedes many Chicago public housing residents settled into the south suburbs when those structures were torn down in recent years. But she said officials should think in terms of bolstering economic opportunities in communities such as Riverdale rather than trying to reduce residents.
Among the opposition was the Illinois Association of Realtors, which says landlords have a right not to deal with a federal government program when picking tenants. Critics also said they doubt the county has the authority to operate the program under different rules from other parts of the country.
But Cheryl Johnson, head of the Altgeld Gardens-based People for Community Recovery group, said she believes low-income residents will wind up being spread out over a larger area rather than being crammed into the south suburbs or — in some cases — Northwest Indiana.
“The right to refuse to house people, I don’t think that’s right,” she said. “There are cases where people are moving out of state because they can’t afford to live in their own county.”