Many people believe that the United States has entered a post-racial society. After all, immigration and multi-racial families have created a diverse country, and we have a black President. Unfortunately, recent stories suggest that racial discrimination and inequality is continuing to persist in the housing sector (as well as other areas).
In April 2012, a discrimination complaint against U.S. Bank was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the National Fair Housing Alliance and other organizations. The National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of fair housing agencies and individuals throughout the United States. The National Fair Housing Alliance’s mission is to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity in housing through education, advocacy, enforcement, and public policy initiatives.
The complaint alleges that foreclosed homes that have been taken over by U.S. Bank are not taken care of in minority communities as well as the homes U.S. Bank has absorbed in white communities. Properties in minority neighborhoods are not well-maintained, which makes the surrounding look undesirable and create health hazards for neighbors. There has also been poor marketing for the properties owned by the bank, which keeps the homes sitting vacant. The vacant, unkempt properties impact the entire neighborhood they reside in. Home seekers are less likely to purchase a home on a street that seems undesirable, and current residents have difficulty selling their home if they decide to move. The complaint argues that the bank’s habit of ignoring their properties in minority communities is discriminatory and violates the federal Fair Housing Act. New data allows communities to continue to be added to the original complaint (the most recent addition occurred in November 2013). There are currently 20 total cities with communities that are included in the complaint.
A discrimination complaint was also filed against Bailey Properties, an apartment property management company that has allegedly been discriminating against Latinos in the southern United States. Last month, the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission filed the complaint with HUD because the management company has been refusing to rent their properties to Latinos. The complaint also claims the company has discriminated in the conditions or terms of rental for Latinos that have been able to rent their properties.
In December 2012, a discrimination complaint was filed with HUD against Allstate Insurance. The National Fair Housing Alliance reported that Allstate has been utilizing redlining practices to discriminate against African American communities in Wilmington, Delaware. The company has refused to provide home insurance plans for houses with flat roofs. African Americans are more likely to live in areas of town that have a concentration of houses with flat roofs. The policy set by Allstate has a disparate impact that results in discriminatory effects that disproportionately harm African Americans in Wilmington.
A recent national study conducted by HUD reported that racial minorities continue to be discriminated against in the housing sector. The study used paired testers to assess the experiences of different races navigating the housing sector in 2012. The report revealed that minorities are told about and shown fewer houses and apartments than white home seekers. Further, minorities who can pass as white either over the phone or in person experience less discrimination than minorities who cannot pass. The impact of these different experiences along racial lines is that minorities are constrained in their housing choices, which can influence the costs of available housing choices.
The cases described above indicate that racial discrimination in housing is still prevalent. Discrimination may have decreased in the last 40 years but it is still evident and has merely shifted into a different form. Subtle inequality has replaced direct discrimination – an African American will not likely be refused to see any available homes or apartments as in the past, but the African American won’t be able to see as many properties as a white person. This change in discrimination is more difficult to notice because minorities aren’t being completely denied housing opportunities and so without a deeper investigation it appears as if their experiences are equal to whites.
Monitoring the participation of different races and ethnicities in the housing sector is necessary to analyze the changes in discrimination each year. Paired testing is the method utilized by researchers to measure discrimination in the housing sector. Paired testing matches a white and non-white individual who have equal qualifications to buy or rent a home. The pair inquires about the same available listings and records the treatment they received from each property manager. Paired testing controls for all variables except the person’s race or ethnicity, allowing researchers to identify racial differences. This method has successfully measured discrimination in the housing sector for decades and continues to be a valuable tool for fair housing experts and agencies who are working to combat housing discrimination.
The hope is that through HUD complaints and lawsuits housing providers will be held accountable for their actions and ultimately improve their compliance with fair hosuing law. In the meantime, it is important for individuals to understand their rights as renters, homeowners, and home seekers. Those who believe they have experienced discrimination should file a complaint with HUD. Housing discrimination continues to occupy our communities and it is important to be aware of and work alongside our neighbors to eliminate discriminatory practices.
To file a complaint with HUD:
Additional information and resources:
By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator
There’s a new home in town, providing persons with disabilities the opportunity to live independently. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve Nazaran, the Community Coordinator of L’Arche Chicago, to learn about their model and why more people should support this program.
L’Arche is a vibrant Community Integrated Living Arrangement for people with and without disabilities, located on Chicago’s west side. The home is comprised of four core members with disabilities that live with three people without disabilities. L’Arche Chicago is accessible to downtown, public transportation, and a wealth of resources.
The home is integrated into the neighborhood so from the outside L’Arche reflects the same structural qualities as most other homes in the area. “We want the layout and design of the homes to be esthetically pleasing,” says Nazaran. Most neighbors like the idea of a L’Arche home in the area or do not notice that this type of community living is present. The homes are well maintained, creating no impact to the character of the neighborhood. Services are not provided on-site so that the home can focus on building community and learning from one another.
L’Arche is very intentional about connecting with the community. The home hosts monthly Community Nights to invite local residents over in an open house setting to share a meal and connect in a comfortable judgement-free environment. “Having these relationships helps you to realize their strengths and that they’re not all that different from you,” explains Nazaran. “Everyone has vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It helps you to recognize your prejudices and helps to broaden your views.” The L’Arche community helps to break down stereotypes that people may have towards persons with disabilities and illuminates the fact that the disabled population deserve to live with dignity and are active participants in society. L’Arche residents are employed by local businesses within the area, which is another way that the residents connect with the community.
One barrier that L’Arche faces is physical accessibility. Due to the housing stock type within the region, L’Arche homes are typically two flats which prevent wheelchair access to the 2nd floor for potential residents and visitors of the home. The installation of elevators and ramps would be ideal; however in most cases funding is not available to make those accommodations. Despite this barrier, L’Arche homes are open to all and accommodate within their financial means as much as possible. Many homes in the Chicago region have large community spaces, which is an asset for when people that need physical accommodations visit L’Arche.
People without disabilities also benefit from the L’Arche program. Nazaran explains that, “At times people come to L’Arche because they are service-minded and value the idea of building a relationship with a population that is typically separated from their world. Others have been somehow impacted by the disability community and have worked with the population before, but feel that they want to be a part of an experience where people with disabilities live a full life.” L’Arche does not market living in their community as a job. People come because they recognize that they can get something out of it. Unlike the high turnover rates in group homes, people without disabilities that live at L’Arche stay for years. After they transition out of the program, most in some way stay connected to the home and contribute to the mission of the program.
Due to the success of this program, there are L’Arche homes in more than 30 countries worldwide.
For more information: L’Arche Chicago
By Morgan P Davis, Fair Housing Policy Director
Recent strides in the fight for equal LGBT rights, such as Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA and Proposition 8, are uplifting and show promise for the future of equal rights. Still, it is crucial that this effort garners Federal housing protections so that members of the LGBT community can live wherever they want and to bring us one step closer to true equality.
The 1968 Fair Housing Act does not delineate sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes. While about 20 states, including Illinois, list sexual orientation as a protected class, only about 15 states extend this same protection to transgender individuals. Further, local ordinances around the nation vary significantly, creating an uneven housing choice topography and sabotages the creation of a fair housing market.
To remedy this troubling hole in LGBT housing rights, the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME) was drafted in 2010 to amend the Fair Housing Act. However, when Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the HOME Act of 2011, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, where it died. A companion bill introduced in the Senate by then Democratic Senator of Massachusetts, John Kerry, met a similar fate.
Since then, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) reintroduced the HOME act to the House of Representatives on June 25th in hopes of harnessing the current heightened national attention towards LGBT rights. Additionally, with Kerry now serving as Secretary of State, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took on the role of reintroducing the companion legislation in the Senate on the 27th of June. This reintroduction of the HOME legislation in Congress comes after the publication of a HUD study that found that same-sex couples are more likely to experience unfavorable treatment when trying to rent a home than heterosexual couples.
“We applaud Senator Kerry and Representative Nadler for their efforts to bring the Fair Housing Act into the 21st Century,” said Shanna L. Smith, National Fair Housing Alliance President and CEO. “These much-needed changes to the Act reflect our nation’s commitment to creating stronger, more diverse and inclusive neighborhoods. Housing discrimination is wrong and runs counter to the American spirit of opportunity. It’s time we leave intolerance and bigotry in America’s dark history of senseless exclusion and instead continue to march on the path to equality.”
If passed, the HOME Act would amend the Fair Housing Act by prohibiting discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, the financing of housing, and in brokerage services on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The proposed Act also seeks to expand the Fair Housing Act’s definition of “familial status” to accurately reflect contemporary family arrangements. This means extending the term to include “anyone standing in loco parentis” of one or more individuals who are not 18 years of age. In other words, parents without legal status will also be protected under “familial status”.
The Act would prohibit discrimination in lending on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Further, HOME would require a seller or landlord to refrain from engaging in housing discrimination, even after the purchase or the lease is signed.
Now is the time to mobilize and press forward for a more inclusive and just Fair Housing Act that includes the LGBT community. As the cornerstone of the fair housing community, this legislation must be a reflection of all citizens’ rights. We must work to set Federal standards that will pave the way to integrated and diverse communities across the board if we are to affirmatively further fair housing.
By Zoe Chapin, Fair Housing Policy Intern
Photo by Guillaume Paumier
There are times when we are lone warriors standing up against housing discrimination. This quote reminds me that affirmatively furthering fair housing is worth fighting for. Our world and other advocates from all over the nation are waiting for us to implement innovative and thoughtful strategies to make society welcoming and inclusive – the way housing and community was intended to be.
A May 2013 report issued by The Institute for Policy Integrity argues that in order to more affirmatively further fair housing, HUD must work to provide clearer and more quantifiable goals and expectations to the nation’s municipalities. Some of the central themes discussed include a stress on quantitative guidance in the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act as well as strong cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis.
The Institute’s critique is one of many reports published this year on the effectiveness of HUD’s efforts to affirmatively further fair housing. The Poverty & Race Research Action Council also released a “First Term Report Card” earlier this which examined their progress of enforcing the AFFH mandate among its grantees, including state and local governments and public housing agencies.
Going forward, the Institute for Policy Integrity writes that legislation should develop strong quantitative guidance. This entails first developing a concrete definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing, and secondly, developing a method to measure it. This step will serve to set goals, and measure success. That being said, the main component of these quantitative, measurable, and enforceable benchmarks is a single metric. The report explains, “If HUD determines that equal opportunity in housing is the ultimate goal of its affirmatively furthering fair housing mandate, the final metric may end up being a version of the Opportunity Index…If HUD determines that the ultimate goal of its mandate is a combination of active integration and ensuring equality opportunity, HUD will need to create a metric that combines the Opportunity Index with measures like the dissimilarity index, weighting each by the proportional importance HUD ascribes to it with respect to the goal of affirmatively furthering fair housing”. In essence, the metric will most likely seek to aggregate several components of fair housing goals, and will therefore be an effective, universal benchmark useful in comparing policies and measuring progress.
Once the goals of the fair housing act are quantifiable, HUD should work to use this concrete data to engage in cost effectiveness analysis and cost benefit analysis. Cost-effectiveness analysis will be key in calculating the monetary costs of compliance to the Fair Housing Act. Further, this information will aid municipalities to budget and compile reports & action plans. The report argues that “Cost-effectiveness analysis can assist at two stages of the analysis process—both when individual grantees are deciding the optimal projects for their region, and when HUD is deciding between potential grantees in order to decide which entities should receive the limited grant funds.”
Cost-benefit analysis should also be utilized. This type of analysis would give HUD valuable insight as to how much and what type of spending yields the most beneficial results. Moreover, a thorough analysis of benefits will reveal the innumerable economic and social benefits of affirmatively furthering fair housing. For instance, the report sites improved learning environments, less neighborhood violence, and more socio-economically diverse and sustainable communities.
This recent report sheds light on real, attainable improvements to the Fair Housing Act. With the unfolding of scenarios like that of Westchester County, potential shortcomings and ambiguities of this pivotal legislation have come to the forefront. However, HUD has the power to effectively accelerate the promotion of fair housing, given it is able to clarify and quantify its expectations in order to strengthen municipal accountability. Furthermore, studies such as this one conducted by the institute for Policy Integrity demonstrate the indispensable power of affirmatively furthering fair housing; a nation that is integrated and equal reaps innumerable, even inexpressible, nuanced benefits which transcend statistics and spreadsheets. Ultimately, however, the more concrete parameters of progress and expectations must be outlined and enforced to path the way forward in the fight for fair housing.
For more information:
By Zoe Chapin, Fair Housing Research Assistant