Cook County launches legal assistance initiative to help residents facing evictions, foreclosures, unresolved debt

Cook County launches legal assistance initiative to help residents facing evictions, foreclosures, unresolved debt

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said there will be a tax deed specific program planned for 2021 that will be focused on early outreach to people who start to fall behind on paying taxes. | Sun-Times file

The Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) initiative, announced by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is the latest effort to help alleviate some of the economic stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Monday announced a new legal assistance initiative geared to help residents facing evictions, foreclosures or unresolved debt issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Early Resolution Program — the first of several programs operated under the new Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) initiative — will provide free legal assistance, counseling, pre-court mediation and case management for residents and landlords dealing with evictions and delinquent property taxes, Preckwinkle said during a virtual news conference.

Preckwinkle said there will be a tax deed specific program planned for 2021 that will be focused on early outreach to residents who start to fall behind on paying taxes. There’s also a mortgage foreclosure specific program in the works, the county board president said.

“Cook County has been experiencing an affordable housing crisis since at least the turn of the century and the trend has only grown over the past decade,” Preckwinkle said Monday. “The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues and will be catastrophic for Cook County renters and homeowners as the 2008 housing crisis was unfortunately. And once again, the most vulnerable among us, Black and Brown residents have been left to bear the brunt of the burden, this is unacceptable.”

The announcement of the CCLAHD, initially funded by a $1 million seed grant from the CARES Act, comes as the U.S. finds itself on the brink of what could be the most severe housing crisis in its history, according to an analysis by the Aspen Institute.

An estimated 30 to 40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction in the next several months with federal, state and local protections and resources set to expire soon, the analysis found.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s moratorium on evictions in Illinois is set to expire Dec. 12, though the Democratic governor could choose to extend it once again.

To learn more about the CCLAHD initiative, visit https://www.cookcountylegalaid.org.