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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

DeKalb Forum On Race Relations Spotlights Housing Inequities

Jenna Dooley
City of DeKalb sign


Conversations at the DeKalb County government’s second virtual forum on race relations broadened this week. Demands for improved housing agreements took center stage.  


Jacob Maas voiced concern about uneven housing conditions and agreements that he says are prevalent in the county. 

“You know, we live in a community where it's not uncommon for people who rent to go without hot water, clean water, heat in the winter air conditioning in the summer,” said Maas.


Maas helped form theDeKalb Tenants Association. He said in order to address racial inequality, the county should re-evaluate the kind of contracts that exist between renters and landlords. 

“I want to echo the demands of protesters in calling for a common lease to enshrine tenant remedies," he said. "Tenants should be allowed to withhold rents or break their lease when their landlords don't satisfy their ends of housing agreements."

Board members Rukisha Crawford and Kiara Jones plan to focus the concerns from the forum and put together a task force designed to get some of these plans considered within the year. The next forum will meet in August. 


  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for Americaan initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.

Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.
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