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Fall 2014

In this issue:
We've Moved!
The Fair Housing Council has moved. Luckily, we were able to find smaller offices that are still downtown and accessible to community members and partners. We are now located on the third floor of the Yamhill Plaza. Our Address is 1221 SW Yamhill St, #305, Portland, Oregon 97205.  Come visit us!
 
Section 8 Now Included as a Protected Source of Income

By Hannah Callaghan and Malia Bennett
A new law which includes Section 8 in the source of income protection in Oregon went into effect July 1, 2014 under the Oregon Revised Statute 659A.421.
(https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2639/Enrolled.)  This new law means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to an applicant, or treat an applicant or tenant differently, because the applicant is using a Section 8 voucher or other rental housing assistance. Nor can landlords advertise “no Section 8” or “No HUD."  Landlords, of course, can still screen and reject any applicant for past conduct and ability to pay rent, but must include those receiving any kind of government housing assistance in that screening process.
 
We have seen several landlords who think that the new law prohibits them only from advertising “No Section 8 or No HUD.” Remember the new law does not just cover advertising.  It means that landlords have to consider and screen all applicants with government rent/housing assistance in the same way that they screen any other applicant who is not receiving government assistance. In addition, landlords cannot charge higher rents and/or deposits because a person receives government assistance for rent.
 
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is the most common of the government rent/housing subsidies.  The program is operated through your local Public Housing Authority (PHA).  The goal of the program is to provide decent, safe and affordable housing in neighborhoods with good schools, shopping, and other infrastructure. The tenant pays a certain percentage of their gross monthly income, the PHA pays the rest, thus providing the landlord with a guarantee on the majority of the rent. 
 
In addition, the new legislation provides for a Landlord Guarantee Fund which would compensate landlords who incur losses – primarily property damages or unpaid rent – as a result of renting to a Section 8 voucher holder. The fund is administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). To submit a claim against the fund, a landlord will need to obtain a court judgment – Circuit Court, Small Claims Court, or Justice Court – from the county where the rental property is located.
 
The judgment must be for damages resulting from the Section 8 tenancy, and those damages must have been incurred after the effective date of HB 2639, July 1, 2014 (although the tenancy could have begun before that date). Any damages must have been caused by the voucher holder’s occupancy, must exceed normal wear and tear, and must be more than $500. Claims are limited to $5,000. Claims must be submitted to OHCS within one year after the judgment is final (meaning any appeals have been resolved or the appeal period has run). OHCS is required to make the responsible Section 8 tenant repay any amounts paid out of the fund, although OHCS may waive that requirement for good cause, and OHCS must offer the tenant a reasonable payment plan. The rules for the Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Fund Program are available on the web site of the Oregon Housing and Community Services, at http://www.oregon.gov/ohcs/pdfs/public_notices/813-360-Administrative-Rule-Housing-Choice.pdf

 
Volunteer Spotlight

Barbara Case is a full-time real estate broker of single family homes and condos for buyers and sellers.  Barbara has been a realtor since 1998 and prides herself on providing the highest level of customer care, because she has a passion for helping people with their real estate goals and dreams. Barbara also has an extensive background in property management and is sensitive to equal housing rights for tenants. She enjoys giving back and staying involved by volunteering with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. She says, “Volunteering with FHCO also gives me an opportunity to stay current with rules and regulations."
 
Callie Reynolds is a senior at Portland State University and a Resident Manager with C&R Real Estate. She said that she is “passionate about fair housing because I believe it makes communities better.”

“I love learning new things and while learning the history and present of housing injustices can be upsetting, I think it is important to gather all of that so I can help build a more fair future.” Her career goals center on expanding safe and supportive housing for people who experience mental health struggles. She is currently serving an internship with Innovative Housing as well as volunteering with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.
Holly Geber began volunteering for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon in summer 2014.   Holly began her advocacy work in various social justice issues while working towards her B.A. in Public Administration from Cal State Fullerton.  After finishing her Bachelor’s degree, she moved to Hanoi, Vietnam to work for Youth with a Mission doing community and economic development work. She then returned to the U.S. to obtain her M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Irvine specializing in immigrant integration. Two years ago, she became the Director and Founder of The Marly Fund, a nonprofit that tackles poverty, prevents human trafficking of young Khmer women, and ignites supportive dialogue on past and current social injustice in Cambodia.

In August, she also began to serve with an organization called PHOENIX Rising Transitions, which provides convicts and ex-convicts with support for reentry in the Portland Metro Area. “This position is tied to my love of fair housing, because part of my position is to help find and fund two new transitional houses. I feel that volunteering my time with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon complements my position,” she says.

Would you like to meet other folks working to end discrimination in housing? Volunteer with FHCO! We have many different opportunities, whatever your skillset is. Email information@fhco.org to get involved.
FHCO Focuses Fair Housing Education Efforts in Eastern Oregon

This past summer, FHCO collaborated with community organizations in Malheur, Union and Umatilla counties to bring fair housing information to a broad range of community members and housing providers. FHCO staff Diane Hess and Louise Dix spent a busy two weeks in the area with a whirlwind of outreach and education efforts.

FHCO provided fair housing literature and training workshops to community based organizations, housing authorities, real estate and landlord associations and local governments. Public service announcements were also aired throughout Eastern Oregon and Diane participated in live interviews on local radio stations. The new traveling historical exhibit was on display at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario for five weeks. Eight training workshops and one webinar were offered to consumers, advocates and housing providers in Ontario, La Grande and Pendleton over a 10 day period.

At all of the trainings it was clear that people were not yet familiar with Oregon’s new fair housing protection for Section 8 voucher holders. Louise and Diane met with advocates and providers to brainstorm strategies for getting the word out through local groups that discrimination against voucher holders is now illegal.

They also met with representatives of local governments to increase their awareness of their legal responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing and to identify ways we can support them in these efforts in the future.

FHCO staff Elizabeth Gray and Malia Bennett joined Diane to offer fair housing information and assistance at a special Mexican Independence Day Celebration at Ontario’s Four Rivers Cultural Center on September 14th. More than 500 participated in the celebration, which featured musical entertainment, children’s activities, and opportunities for 32 organizations to share information about housing rights and other community resources.

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon thanks our local partners, Community in Action (CinA), Community Action Program of NE Oregon (CCNO), Community Action Program of East Central Oregon (CAPECO), Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC) and the Four Rivers Cultural Center for their support with setting up the trainings, connecting us with important resources in their communities and helping us get the word out about fair housing.


 
Diane Hess with Anywhere But Here, an exhibit showing the history of housing discrimination in Oregon, at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario. Anywhere But Here is available to be shown at your organization or event. Email information@fhco.org to make arrangements.
“Virtual Tours” on the History of Housing Discrimination in Eastern and Southern Oregon

There is an old adage that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and FHCO’s fair housing education efforts consistently incorporate the little-known history of discrimination, segregation and displacement in Oregon. “We believe an awareness of largely unknown history provides an important context for understanding and tackling the fair housing challenges we face across our state today,” said Diane Hess, Education and Outreach Director.

In Portland, we conduct our popular historical bus tour Fasten Your Seat Belts... It’s Been a Bumpy Ride each April through October for a variety of groups, and we’ve been exploring how to do something similar in other areas of the state. Bus tours addressing discrimination in Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon are impractical, given the long distances between historic sites, but we have been busy researching the history of the regions and have developed a “virtual tour” presentation for groups.  We are refining the presentation with ongoing research and interviews of local experts and individuals who have personal stories to share.

If you have information or personal memories of discrimination in Oregon’s past you’d be willing to share with us, we’d appreciate hearing from you. If you are an organization in Eastern or Southern Oregon interested in scheduling a presentation for your group, we want to hear from you too. Please contact Diane at dhess@fhco.org  or 503-223-8197, ext. 108.

 
New Historic Exhibit, Uprooted, Debuts in Ontario

By Diane Hess
Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Camps During World War II is an impressive photographic exhibit dramatizing the experience of Japanese American farm laborers in Eastern Oregon and Idaho. The exhibit premiered in Ontario at the Four Rivers Cultural Center on September 13th, attracting hundreds of viewers, including many Japanese American elders who labored in local farms at the time.

During World War II, there was a massive need for agricultural labor to pick 12,000 acres of sugar beets in Eastern Oregon and Idaho. The beets were converted into industrial alcohol and used for munitions in the war effort. The Amalgamated Sugar Company declared that “every time a 16” gun fired, a fifth of an acre of sugar beets went up in smoke.” The desperate need for workers led the sugar company and state officials to obtain permission from President Roosevelt to permit Japanese Americans, who had been forced from their homes and incarcerated in camps and assembly centers, such as the Portland Expo Center, to leave for Malheur County, an environment without barbed wire and armed guards.

It was backbreaking work thinning and picking the beets, which could weigh as much as ten pounds. Ontario’s Mayor, Elmo Smith, worked hard to counter discrimination and integrate the newcomers into community life, and over time curfews were relaxed and the workers were permitted to go into the town of Nyssa for shopping and recreation. After the war’s end many remained in the area and are prominent citizens of Nyssa and Ontario today.

The exhibit features the historic photographs of Russell Lee, who was a staff photographer with the federal Farm Security Administration, and the research of curator Morgan Young. To learn more about the exhibit, view a short documentary about the camps and watch interviews with those who lived there, visit the Uprooted website, www.uprootedexhibit.com

The exhibit is on display at the Four Rivers Cultural Center through December 12th, and will be coming to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland, February through June 2016.
Lead in Review

By Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist
FHCO’s Jo Becker offers a retrospective on lead hazards in housing and the evolution of lead-based paint regulation as it relates to housing providers.  

As a former housing provider herself, Jo muses over the changes she’s seen in the past 18 years and offers food for thought as to why there’s been such a focus on placing housing providers in the role of consumer advocates.  

The article wraps up by bringing home the real costs of lead poisoning and offering helpful community resources. You can read the article here.
HUD Releases Draft of Assessment of Fair Housing Tool

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) released its draft AFH tool for review and comment on September 26, 2014. This begins the 60 day comment period.

HUD published a proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation last year that intends to create a framework to support HUD recipients in their AFFH obligations by providing more information and tools about AFFH.  The proposed rule introduced an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), a document that HUD grantees would use to analyze barriers to fair housing choice and set goals to address them as a replacement for the current Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI).

This is the first of two opportunities for public comment on the AFH Tool--the second will be for 30 days later in the process. HUD also: 1) provided a preamble that summarizes the content of the AFH tool and includes specific questions where HUD would like your feedback; and 2) posted PDFs of the data and maps that they intend to provide to help grantees complete the AFH. All the materials are available at: http://www.huduser.org/portal/affht_pt.html
Farewell, Dustin
Dustin Ellett will leave the Fair Housing Council of Oregon on November 26th, 2014. Dustin joined FHCO last November as our Fair Lending Intake Specialist, and worked with his colleagues on the fair lending team to build FHCO’s capacity to handle loan origination and mortgage servicing complaints. He stayed on as a Test Coordinator, conducting testing for state protected classes in jurisdictions throughout Oregon.

“I’ve learned a lot about the problems that civil rights advocates address on a daily basis” Dustin says, “especially in lending cases, where the issues involved are especially complex.” Regarding the future he says, “I hope to be able to build on these experiences in the future, and I’m grateful to my colleagues for the chance to join in this important work.”

We all will miss Dustin's great sense of humor, and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

 
Upcoming Events!

NAYA Housing to Homeownership Fair, October 11, 2014
NAYA Family Center Gym, 5135 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

FHCO will have a table at the event and will be offering a consumer workshop on Fair Housing Basics.

North to Central Coast Fair Housing Tour, October 20-25, 2014
Diane Hess and Louise Dix, education and outreach staff, will be hitting the Coast with a series of workshops for consumers, advocates and housing providers.  They will be bringing the new exhibit, Anywhere But Here and providing fair housing materials.
For more information or to find out how you can participate, please contact Louise Dix at ldix@fhco.org or 503-223-8097 Ext. 115.
Copyright © 2014 Fair Housing Council of Oregon, All rights reserved.


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