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Study: Segregation persists in Chicago with hurdles to fair housing

Barriers to fair housing are exacerbating segregation in the Chicago area, according to a new study by the John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Clinic.

A team looked at housing discrimination cases between 2009-12 and found a 30 percent increase in clients who alleged ‘source of income’ discrimination. In housing terms, that’s when landlords turn down renters because they have subsidized housing vouchers.

The housing clinic released the study Monday and gave a slew of recommendations.

“It’s one thing to say we should do a massive integration plan for the city, but I don’t think that’s very likely in this political climate,” said Michael Seng, director of the clinic.

Although Chicago and Cook County protect such low-income renters, Seng says a federal statute is needed because it would have more teeth and apply to other parts of Illinois.

“That has been a factor in recent years on the problems of minorities, particularly African Americans and others in getting housing in Chicago,” Seng said. “All of these areas that we have identified would have an impact on segregation in Chicago.”

Other recommendations include legislation to end discrimination against ex-offenders who haven’t committed a serious or recent offense.

Seng said immigrants who don’t speak English often face discrimination, and state and federal changes should make them a protected class. The study found that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth comprise a significant percentage of Chicago homeless. While sexual orientation is a protected class under Chicago and state law, Seng said more training is needed in homeless shelters and various agencies dealing with LGBT youth. He noted that there are no shelters for these young people on the South and West Sides.

Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.

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