Posts in Category: Fair Housing

Diversity and Prosperity – Integration is the Key

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to speak to various audiences around the country about Oak Park and the Housing Center’s work to promote and sustain integration. In addition to being able to share our model with others, I’ve learned a lot about how much latent demand is out there for a Housing Center model in many other communities.

In these recent presentations, I’ve been including a graph that shows something that consistently grabs the audience. It is a graph for the census years of 1980-2010. On the graph I display two sets of data. The first is the percentage of Oak Park’s population that is white. The second is the value of real estate in Oak Park. The lines move in opposite directions. As the white percentage decreases, the value of real estate increases. You’ll notice that the line showing white population is levelling while the line displaying real estate values is increasing fairly sharply. Also, during the period from 2000-2010 (the two years I could get the data) Oak Park’s values increased at more than 150% of the regional average.

value graph

It’s a powerful graph because it demonstrates a reality that challenges the conventional wisdom about diversity and housing values. The typical belief is that property values decline as more people of color move to a community. But, in Oak Park, this is clearly not the case. Inevitably, I am asked how this is accomplished. How does Oak Park create an advantage out of diversity?

The answer is in intentionality. While other communities either ignore or fight against integration (and this happens in multiple directions), Oak Park has established diversity as a core value. Moreover, our programs and policies don’t stop there. They intentionally promote integration within Oak Park to ensure that people of different backgrounds live among one another rather than within specific parts of the community. After all, diversity without integration is segregation. Segregation, not diversity, is what truly harms communities. Segregation is a system of inequality that, through disadvantage and disinvestment, eventually pulls down more than the initially affected neighborhoods.

Integration allows a community to turn diversity into an asset. People living together can learn from each other, improve empathy, build integrated social networks, and find common purpose. Everyone wants a good education for their children, a nice home, and a community with enjoyable choices. Systems that encourage integration ensure greater equity across the community so that race and place are unifying rather than divisive (as they are elsewhere).

So long as we continue our intentional integration strategies, we should see Oak Park continue to prosper from its diversity.

Cross-posted at

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Openly Gay Athletes May Pave the Way for Equality

Gay pride 2011 à Toulouse

Despite the growing tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQ community, many LGBTQ athletes still find the sports culture unaccepting of their orientation and lifestyles. Athletes are often forced to live by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy because, otherwise, they end up marginalized or may even kicked off of the team.

This month is the anniversary of Jason Collins coming out as the first active male openly gay athlete in major sports in America. He came out as a gay professional athlete publicly in April 29, 2013 with reluctant acquiescence from the NBA and the sports community. After a couple of 10-day contracts he signed with the Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the 2013-2014 season. Is this emblematic of how much progress we have made in treating everyone equal, regardless of sexual orientation? Well, it is not a complete reversal of LGBTQ discrimination by objectors but it is a step in the right direction.

Could this progress in the professional sports community be cataclysmic for the rest of the United States? Perhaps, because more states are legalizing gay marriage. However, there are United States housing policies that are discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community.  They are discriminatory, not as direct policy, but in the absence of written policy that offers protection for this community. The federal Fair Housing Act contains no law that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are some ways to circumvent the effects of discrimination. For example, a gay man who is evicted because his landlord believes he will infect other tenants with HIV can have recourse by using the Fair Housing Act. The situation may constitute illegal disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act because the man is perceived to have a disabling disease, HIV. Similarly, if a property manager refuses to rent an apartment to a prospective tenant who is transgendered because of the person’s non-conformity with gender stereotypes, it may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex under the Fair Housing Act.

There may be some ways to mitigate discrimination in housing but progress still needs to be made in housing and society-at-large. The lack of specific direct housing regulations against discrimination towards the LGBTQ community leaves many residents subject toward inequity in housing. That there is only one Jason Collins (although Micheal Sam, a virtual lock for an NFL contract this upcoming season, will be joining him in that respect) in all four of the major sports with a non-traditional sexual orientation shows that there are still elements in the culture of male-dominated sports that negate an LGBTQ orientation. How, then, shall we help the cause? By making policies reserved for straight athletes or straight tenants available to the LGTBQ community. We are making inroads towards this goal but much is needed to continue towards the goal of equal rights and equal treatment for the LGBTQ community.

By Jose O’Campo, Research Assistant at Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance

Photo by Guillaume Paumier

The Fair Housing Act in 2014


April is Fair Housing Month – a time to reflect on the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Even though the policy was signed forty-six years ago, it is still very relevant today. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was a landmark policy that demonstrated the importance of furthering open and inclusive communities. Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Act was enacted in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King tirelessly advocated for an end to housing discrimination and a law that would support fair and open housing. Everyday housing advocates honor his life’s work by furthering his dream of equal rights and social justice. Though we have progressed as a nation, there is work to be done to truly achieve Dr. King’s dream.

Through the work of community leaders, the housing sector is becoming more inclusive. The original act prohibited housing discrimination against residents on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. In a 1989 amendment, the protected classes of persons with disabilities and families with children were added. Over the years, state and local jurisdictions have adopted other protected classes to further the mission of fair housing and enable a more equal housing market.

Unfortunately, housing discrimination still occurs today. While discrimination is not as blatant and ubiquitous as it was prior to the Fair Housing Act – think redlining and blockbusting – it continues to persist. Some realtors show houses in specific neighborhoods based on their clients’ race. Some banks charge higher interest rates on loans for minorities. Advertisements for rental units sometimes encourage certain groups of people to apply or exclude other groups. The Fair Housing Act is still needed to combat housing discrimination.

Segregation has permeated the nation’s cities for many years, and ending a deep and complex problem takes time. The Fair Housing Act includes a clause that affirmatively furthers fair housing, which aims to tackle historic segregation patterns. Affirmatively furthering fair housing provides better access to opportunities by promoting diverse and inclusive communities. It intends to reduce discrimination through open housing options for people of color as well as persons with disabilities.

To adhere to the clause to affirmatively further fair housing, communities that receive government funding must create a fair housing action plan to promote equal and diverse housing opportunities for residents. This section of the Fair Housing Act is an essential part of the mission of fair housing, but has lacked clear guidelines and little enforcement. In 2013, an updated rule aims to help municipalities affirmatively further fair housing through the use of assessment tools and public data. The new and improved clause provides a proactive approach to developing inclusive communities. This updated rule demonstrates that the nation still needs accountability and assistance in order to provide fair and open housing.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was a landmark policy that demonstrated the importance of furthering open and inclusive communities. This April, there is much to celebrate from the past forty-six years, but there is also more work to be done. Fair Housing Month reminds us of both of these things as we continue in the fair housing movement.

By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator

Twenty Five Year Reflection of Fair Housing Act Amendment of 1989

wheelchair accessible housing_by Kim Brookes

Fair and open housing for all people is essential for America to continue being the land of opportunity. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 gave the federal government the authority to hold communities accountable to end discriminatory practices and, along with the 14th amendment, to end state-action discrimination.  Although this legislation made great inroads in fair housing, the 1968 act did not include all groups in the community, including those that are disabled and/or those with differences of familial status.

So, in 1989 the federal government wrote up legislation on behalf of these individuals and amended the Fair Housing Act to include those community members. Granting these newly protected classes equal access to housing benefits the entire community. People with disabilities contribute to our communities and deserve the same dignity and respect that other residents have. They have the innate right to be integrated into all neighborhoods. These ideals also apply to families with children and single-parent households. Children can greatly enhance the vibrancy and character of a community and, due to their vulnerability, especially need decent housing in quality neighborhoods.

The act could not have been amended any time sooner.  Twenty five years ago, we were living in a society that was progressively taking a more inclusionary stance with community members who fall under the amended category.  One wonders about the big picture question as to what caused the movement towards inclusion. Was it the legislation that moved us in that direction? Or was it the collective impact of fair housing organizations on our civic leaders? Both efforts were necessary to allow these two groups to become integrated within the community.

When we take a moment to focus on our individual lives, we realize that we have all been impacted by these two groups in one way or another. Indeed, we must continue to promote the open and equal opportunity for these groups to join our community. It is 2014 and we have reached a very important point in fair housing history and community involvement to continue to foster the inclusion of households with children and people with disabilities.

We all come from various backgrounds and are going to be hard-pressed to find a neighborhood composed of only one demography. So in a step to accept the wonderful diversity that our society offers, we should be inclusive of people with disabilities and differing familial status in our community. We have the legislation as members of our society, take a personal stance to be more neighborly to all members of our community.

By Jose O’Campo, Research Assistant at Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance

Photo by Kim Brookes

Housing Discrimination is Alive Today

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