Naperville panel says housing discrimination complaint unfounded

 
 
Updated 1/23/2018 4:45 PM

A review panel of members of Naperville's housing advisory commission found no probable cause for a discrimination complaint filed by a black woman who said her rent was increased because of her race, age, disabilities and source of income.

The panel on Tuesday came to consensus that the complaint, filed in November, did not show evidence of discrimination. Community Planner Kasey Evans said the full housing advisory commission will review the decision in February or March, but it's likely the city's review will proceed no further.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A woman who rents a duplex near the Naperville Metra station from Wheaton-based Community Housing Advocacy and Development, or CHAD, filed the complaint after receiving several eviction notices.

She said the issues began last May, when her doctor wrote CHAD two letters asking for modifications to her duplex because of her disabilities, which she says are physical and mental. The complaint said she sought repairs to uneven pavement, nails sticking out of the walls in the garage, deadbolt door locks and a leaky basement.

By June 15, she said she received a letter stating her rent would go up by $106 a month starting Aug. 1. The letter failed to provide 60 days notice of the 10 percent rent increase, which she said was an unfair amount because "white tenants' rents were raised less than 5 percent."

The rent increase would cost the woman an additional $1,292 a year, based on the share she pays after assistance from a housing voucher. She said that amount totals one month of her income.

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"I feel that I am being discriminated against because I have an affordable housing voucher," the woman wrote. "The landlord knows if they raise the rent too high, Section 8 won't pay and I have to move."

By Aug. 18, the woman wrote that her landlord had mailed her letters of nonrenewal and said she needed to move out by Sept. 30. When she did not leave, she said representatives of CHAD began visiting the house, ringing the doorbell, shouting and posting eviction notices.

Members of the three-person fair housing complaint review panel said some of the woman's requests for modifications were reasonable and some of her concerns were valid. But they said nothing in the 300 pages of documentation she provided showed evidence of discriminatory treatment.

"As it stands right now, I don't think there's anything here that rises to discrimination," panel member James Bernicky said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Panel member Mercedes Haber-Kovach said she thinks CHAD raised the rent because of market value of the duplex -- which she said is in an all-brick building with two bedrooms, a basement and a garage -- and not because of the woman's race, age, disability, income or any other factor.

Senior assistant city attorney Kristen Foley agreed with the review panel's findings.

"Her allegations don't appear to be backed by a lot of specific facts," Foley said. "I don't think it meets the criteria."

Foley said a separate eviction proceeding related to the woman's case was in DuPage County court this week, but she was unaware of the result.

The complaint stated the woman also has filed her concerns with the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Attorney General.

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