Co-Director, Public Housing and Mobility; Senior Staff Counsel
Alexander “Alex” Polikoff is Senior Staff Counsel and Co-Director of the Housing program area, a role he has held since YEAR. Alex, along with co-director Julie Brown, co-counsels the Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority public housing desegregation litigation and helps monitor the 2019 Gautreaux Settlement Agreement. He has served as lead counsel in the Gautreaux public housing litigation since its inception in 1966. Alex also co-leads with Betsy Lassar BPI’s work as project manager for an effort to demonstrate that family-centered services will help low-income families receiving federal Housing Choice Vouchers foster economic mobility by taking foundational steps toward financial security, homeownership, and wealth building.
In 1970, one year after its founding, Alex joined BPI as Executive Director, a position he held for over 29 years. Before starting at BPI, he was a member of the Schiff Hardin & Waite (now Schiff Hardin LLP) Chicago law firm. Alex holds a BA, an MA (English Language and Literature), and a JD from the University of Chicago. He is the author of articles on public interest law and urban affairs and of Housing the Poor: The Case for Heroism (1977), Waiting for Gautreaux: A Story of Segregation, Housing, and the Black Ghetto (2006), The Path Still Open: A Greater Chance for Peace Than Ever Before (2009), and, with co-author Elizabeth Lassar, A Brief History of the Subordination of African Americans in the U.S.: Of Handcuffs and Bootstraps (2020). He is a recipient of the lifetime achievement award from The American Lawyer magazine.
Assisting low-income people with legal services has infused Alex’s professional life, from his pro-bono work at Schiff Hardin, to his service as a volunteer ACLU attorney (in which capacity Alex filed the Gautreaux case), to his full-time public interest work for over 50 years with BPI.