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The Housing Crisis

December 2020 Newsletter
About the Newsletter

One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that tens of millions of people have become unemployed since March.1 When individuals become unemployed, they are at higher risk of not being able to meet their basic needs, including paying bills and rent. 

In efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, federal, state, and city governments have prohibited landlords from evicting their tenants. With the expiration of these orders quickly approaching, in this newsletter we highlight the status of the housing crisis and look towards what may be ahead. 

Getting oriented

A moratorium is a temporary prohibition of an activity. 

Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. In some jurisdictions it may also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgage. 

Eviction Moratoriums

To combat the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted an eviction moratorium, which expires December 31st, 2020.2 Currently, another coronavirus relief bill is being considered that is expected to extend the moratorium through the end of January. The moratorium makes it illegal for a landlord or owner of residential property to evict any person, because evictions of tenants could be detrimental to public health control measures. There are other nationwide protections for renters and homeowners that are set to expire at the end of the year as well:  
  • The Federal Housing Administration has a ban on evictions from properties secured by FHA-insured single-family mortgages through December 31, 2020.3 
  • Additionally, the government-backed mortgage buyers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have prohibited landlords of single-family properties with Freddie Mac- and Fannie Mae-backed mortgages from evicting tenants until at least January 31, 2020.4

The Looming Crisis

Even with these protections, between March 15 and December 5th, landlords have filed over 160,000 evictions across 27 cities during the pandemic, with over 3,000 filings last week.5 As with other domains during this pandemic, the housing crisis disproportionately affects low-income renters.6 Following the pandemic, regardless of how long eviction moratoriums last, many will be at higher risk of housing insecurity. 

While these moratoriums have been useful in preventing evictions, we can see from the data that there are several issues:

  • The moratorium does not address the various phases of eviction, from notice of eviction, eviction filing, hearing on eviction, order, judgement, and writ of execution, and enforcement of order.7 

  • The order does not cancel rent, so as soon as it is over, individuals are at risk of severe financial strain to pay for their overdue rent to avoid eviction 

  • The order does not prevent landlords from charging fees, penalties, or interest 

  • The order does not offer any compensation for landlords, who also may need relief from the pandemic and rely on rent as a source of income 

A Local Look

Since March 14, there have been 2,376,375 unemployment claims in Illinois, about 37% of the state labor force.1 In Cook County, unemployment is above 16%. Illinois has a renting population of almost 4 million people.8 With the city and the state still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is limited protection for renters. 
  • By governor's order, no evictions (unless the tenant poses a direct threat to people or property) may occur through January 9, 2021. Income and other restrictions apply, and tenants must fill out a declaration affirming their eligibility for protection under the ban. For more information, see the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Executive Order 2020-72 FAQs.  The Illinois eviction moratorium has been renewed previously, but there is no guarantee that it will be renewed again in January. 
  • Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced that the state's major utility providers have agreed to extend the ban on utility shutoffs through March 31, 2021. There is no ban on charging late fees, though. 
  • Chicago's eviction moratorium law pauses eviction filings until 60 days after the statewide order expires. Once the city's eviction ban ends, landlords can issue five-day eviction notices again. But under this law, tenants who owe rent will have 12 days to negotiate instead of five. The law also allows renters at least two months to pay back each month of missed rent, and it requires landlords to give tenants a know-your-rights document
Eviction Lab assigned Illinois a score of 1.85 out of 5 on their housing policy scorecard.8 

SPH Spotlight: Shreyas Shastri
Shreyas is a senior pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Public Health at the UIC School of Public Health, and is on the pre-law track and minoring in Criminology, Law & Justice and Public Policy. From August 2018 to May of 2019, he worked as a law clerk at the Acuna Law Offices, a law firm in downtown Chicago that practiced eviction defense law. In his work, he was involved in case management and the drafting and filing of legal motions.

During his time at the law firm, he saw firsthand how harmful being evicted can be to someone. Every other part of your life becomes harder with housing insecurity. As a student on a pre-law track, he is interested in eviction defense law because evictions are tied to the law, and right now, the courts and the legal processes heavily favor landlords in any kind of eviction case. 
Respond in Action

Despite the quickly approaching expiration of the federal eviction moratorium at the end of the year, there are many possible directions governments can take to mitigate the impact of the housing crisis. Some suggested policies include: 

  • Government-subsidized rent so that housing providers still have some source of income 

  • Reducing or forgiving mortgage payments for landlords who cannot afford it due to not collecting rent.6  

  • Investing in and incentivizing affordable housing development and construction   

  • First-time home buyer programs to balance out supply and demand and make housing affordable for all. 

The current proposed stimulus package extends the eviction moratorium into February and allocates $25 billion in rental assistance. Talk about this with your friends and family in other districts and states. Contact your representative to ask them to support the stimulus package. 

Contact your alderman to talk about concerns about evictions in your community.

Long term, support affordable housing developments in your community by continuing to engage with your policy makers. 

Support tenants and landlords by supporting advocacy organizations who are providing important resources during this pandemic (see below)
In the News

  1. Chiwaya, N & Wu, J. (2020, Aug 27). “Unemployment claims by state: See how COVID-19 has destroyed the job market”. NBC Universal News. Retrieved from  
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Federal Register Notice: Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19.  Retrieved from 
  3. US Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2020, Aug 27). FHA Extends Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium for Homeowners Trough Year End. Press Release No. 20-134. Retrieved from  
  4. Federal Housing Finance Agency. (2020, Dec 2). FHFA Extends Foreclosure and REO Eviction Moratoriums. Retrieved from 
  5. Eviction Lab. (2020, Dec 5). The Eviction Tracking System. Princeton University. Retrieved from  
  6.  Darcel, R. (2020, Dec 13). ' We're heading for a huge housing crisis'. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from  
  7. Benfer, E., Dunn, E., Hayat, N.B., & Blake, R. (2020, Mar 24). “What an Effective Eviction Moratorium Must Include”. Shelter Force. Retrieved from  
  8. Eviction Lab. (2020). Illinois policy scorecard. Princeton University. Retrieved from  

CHJ News

Harm Reduction-Based Messaging  

We know that as this pandemic continues, we recognize that it is becoming more difficult to maintain quarantine because of the need to see people we care about.. Because of this and the upcoming holidays, we produced guidance documents on traveling, moving to a new household, and gathering as the pandemic continues. Access these 1-page communication resources on our COVID-19 resources page, under "Staying Safer During the COVID-19 Pandemic".

Anti-Racist Community Engagement Principles

This month, we released our principles for community engagement. These principles reflect an effort to institutionalize best practices around community engaged work. In order to align our principles with the goal to achieve health equity, we must be explicit about our commitment to dismantling structural inequality in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, classism, and xenophobia among others. These principles thus envision dismantling these structural barriers as core components to meaningful community engagement. View and download the antiracist community engagement principles here.  

Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

Ibram Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist is coming to UIC! Each year the University of Illinois at Chicago joins the nation in honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Join us from January 18-22 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Week 2021 and take part in a variety of commemorative events, which includes a Critical Conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi co-moderated by the Collaboratory's doctoral fellow for community engagement, Alexis Grant. Other events include the UIC MLK Day of Service, Honor our MLK Scholars, MLK Book Club, and Event Debrief: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. For more details, visit

For events streamed live, ASL and real-time captions will be provided. For access information, contact or call (312) 725-2793.


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Collaboratory for Health Justice · 1603 W Taylor St · Chicago, IL 60612-4310 · USA

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