Q&A with Nareen Kim, North Suburban Housing Clinic
You work with clients in suburban Cook County and Lake County. What are you seeing right now when it comes to evictions?
We are still seeing many renters who experienced a COVID-related loss of income who are being evicted for nonpayment of rent. The frustration is that rental assistance is still available that would satisfy all rent owed and keep renters housed, but landlords are choosing to reject rental assistance and instead evict. Landlords are also raising rents and renters are being evicted because they cannot afford to renew their lease at a higher rent and are not able to find other affordable rentals.
What would you say to people who don’t think housing problems exist in the suburbs?
The housing landscape has changed and more renters have moved out of the city to the suburbs – these include seniors, disabled individuals, domestic violence survivors and immigrants. There are now more immigrants who live in the suburbs than in the city of Chicago. And more than half of Illinois’s undocumented immigrants live in suburban Chicago. This growing population of suburban renters is more vulnerable and fragmented and they do not have as many protections as renters in the city.
You’ve worked in the legal aid field for almost two decades. What is the biggest change you have seen?
The need for legal assistance in our community is greater than it has ever been. The lack of affordable housing, COVID, inflation, and increasing rents have all contributed to our current housing crisis. In addition to housing, my office has seen tremendous need for domestic violence and immigration assistance. We are fortunate to live in a state that supports funding for legal services and that we have a strong network of legal services providers and advocates in Illinois who have rallied to address the needs in our communities.
After helping people facing life-changing problems, how do you decompress/relax in your free time?
After spending all day dealing with people in crisis, it is so important for legal services providers to achieve work-life balance. Outside of the office, I spend a lot of time with my family including my two kids. My daughter is a youth ambassador for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) so I’m helping her plan her first fundraising Walk. To decompress I enjoy puzzles of all kinds – sudoku, logic games, octordle and the standard jigsaw. I also relax binge watching Korean dramas on Netflix.