The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) has announced that a U.S. District Court approved a settlement agreement between a class of public housing residents and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The settlement ensures that all public housing residents will receive adequate notice of their right to request a “hardship exemption” to the public housing statute’s minimum rent requirement. The settlement will also provide financial relief in the form of rent adjustments and/or credits to thousands of CHA’s public housing residents who were charged the minimum rent when they were entitled to a hardship exemption.
Federal law authorizes CHA to charge its lowest-income public housing residents so-called “minimum rents” of $75 per month. That same law protects households who cannot afford this amount by giving them the right to request a hardship exemption from the minimum rent requirement. The public housing residents alleged that CHA did not take steps to reasonably and sufficiently inform them of this right.
The settlement requires CHA to take steps to ensure that every resident knows about their right to request a hardship exemption as well as how to request one. CHA will provide all public housing residents with a plain-language information sheet regarding its minimum rent policies and procedures, train its property managers on such policies and procedures, amend its notices of rent adjustment, and ensure that no household is evicted for nonpayment of the minimum rent.
CHA will also remove from every public housing resident’s ledger all unpaid minimum rent charges that have accrued since February 2016. CHA will likewise provide every qualifying public housing resident a rent credit equal to the minimum rent payments made by the resident since April 2020.
“Some of these residents borrowed money or went without food to pay the minimum rent,” said John Bouman, director of Legal Action Chicago. “Others didn’t pay the amount demanded, and some of them got evicted for nonpayment.” He also noted that CHA did not deny the problem when it was brought to the authority’s attention. Instead, CHA worked with attorneys to create a solution. Mr. Bouman praised CHA’s willingness to take meaningful steps to correct past mistakes and create better practices.
Attorneys for the public housing residents included staff from Legal Action Chicago and National Housing Law Project, as well as pro-bono attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery.
Read a media release issued by NHLP at: https://bit.ly/43ty6kO