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Tenants rights advocates warn of eviction wave in January

Researchers said if a ban on evictions isn’t extended, renters in Black and Brown communities will feel the heaviest blows.

Protesters outside Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s Gold Coast mansion in June called on him to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois during the pandemic.
Protesters outside Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s Gold Coast mansion in June called on him to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois during the pandemic. The governor and state Legislature have not done so.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Chicago will see a wave of eviction cases in January unless Gov. J.B. Pritzker extends a moratorium in place since the beginning of the pandemic, a tenants rights organization said Thursday.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing said the city could see 21,000 eviction cases in the first month after the moratorium ends. It’s due to expire on Jan. 9 but has been extended several times.

The projected total is about 13 times the monthly number of evictions the city saw before the pandemic. The lawyers group, working with Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research, arrived at the estimate using a statistical model tracking the relationship between eviction filings and changes in unemployment.

Researchers warned the situation for renters, some out of work or with reduced hours because the pandemic has affected their jobs, could be much worse than its projection.

“It’s a huge number and we’re frightened of it but there’s going to be a much huger number of illegal evictions,” said Randall Leurquin, a staff member for special projects at the committee. While data on illegal evictions is scarce, researchers cited a study in Milwaukee that suggests they amount to twice the formal cases landlords file against tenants.

Michael Mini, executive vice president of the Chicagoland Apartment Association, which represents landlords, said he believes predictions of an eviction wave are overblown. He said landlords continue to work out payment plans but face challenges when tenants don’t communicate and rely on the eviction ban to protect them. He noted the most recent extension of Pritzker’s moratorium allows landlords to file an eviction case for tenants who do not attest to hardship from the pandemic.

Mini also noted that Timothy Evans, chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, has started a program to resolve eviction cases before they go forward.

The researchers said evictions will fall hardest in communities of color. With new data for 2018 and 2019 added to results from prior years, the groups found eviction rates per 100 rental units are five times higher in majority Black communities than in majority white communities. For Latino communities, the rates are twice as high as white communities, their study found.

Aside from extending the moratorium, the researchers called on the state Legislature to enact other protections for renters, including allowing temporary seals on eviction cases to make it easier for people forced out of their homes to find another apartment.

A nationwide order from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention barring evictions is due to expire at year-end.

The updated numbers at the groups’ Chicago Evictions Data Portal showed a slight decline in evictions during 2018 and 2019, a result researchers speculated was due to lower joblessness.