Landlord restrictions 'interfere with free market' and 'enforce ignorance,' says Chicago GOP chair
Chris Cleveland says there is at least one thing he knows for certain in the contentious, often murky debate about a new law prohibiting landlords from turning away prospective tenants because of their criminal histories.
“I don’t think government should be interfering in free-market trade in this way,” the chairman of Chicago GOP told Prairie State Wire. “That’s the first advice I would give to the government: Don’t interfere with the free marketplace.”
Beyond that point, Cleveland admits he sees many shades of gray in the ongoing debate.
“I think ex-offenders should get a second chance and I don’t think landlords should exclude them except in cases of the most serious crimes,” he said. “But denying a landlord from knowing who’s on the property is also harmful to other tenants who have to know.”
Cook County Board Commissioners recently overwhelmingly voted to adopt the law proposed by board member Brandon Johnson in March. Supporters contend it is aimed at helping citizens returning to society from imprisonment and those with arrest records more easily find stable housing.
The bill is scheduled to formally take effect in November. It also stipulates that landlords cannot inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until after their application is initially approved, and prevents them from denying applicants solely based on criminal convictions.
The rule is in accordance with federal guidelines adopted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2016. In addition, the National Employment Law Project reports that more than two-thirds of all states and 150 cities now have “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from questioning applicants about criminal histories on their applications.
“I think enforcing ignorance is damaging,” Cleveland said. “You can’t have a landlord who blindly excludes everyone, but, at the same time, you have to let the free market step in.”