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Stronger Cook Co. law prohibits discrimination against renters with Section 8 vouchers

Updated: May 9, 2013 10:54AM

Protections against income discrimination already existing for Chicago tenants will be extended across all of Cook County after a vote Wednesday by the county board.

The commissioners approved in a 9-6 vote an amendment to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance that prohibits landlords from discriminating against Housing Choice — or Section 8 — voucher holders. The amendment effectively adds “source of income” to the list of factors landlords may not consider — along with race, sex, age and disabilities, among others — when screening tenants.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the amendment exactly mirrors the Chicago ordinance that has been in effect for 20 years. A vote on the amendment has been on hold, she said, in order to marshal support.

“It signals a new day in Cook County,” said Commissioner Jesus G. Garcia as he introduced the amendment during the meeting, “if we adopt it.”

Supporters of the amendment, which kicks in in August, cheered the board after the vote. The Illinois Association of Realtors has been among the groups opposing the amendment, however, and critics on the board said the rights of building owners who don’t want to participate in the voucher program should also be considered. One commissioner said the law should be as fair to building owners as it is to renters.

“If it’s fair to one it should be fair to all,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman before urging a “no” vote.

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