Support Fair Housing | It's Fun Having all Kinds of Neighbors
Bus Tour Wraps Up for 2016 | Harassment Policy Update
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Now is the Time to Make a Difference in the Future of Fair Housing and Equal Housing Opportunity.

by Allan Lazo, Executive Director

The end of the year is a time for reflection, both on the year past and the year to come; it’s also a time when we ask for your support. There’s a pressing need for us to do both here.
Allan Lazo
As our country and our communities have come through this tumultuous and often divisive election season, there is one thing those working to uphold the civil rights of all members of our communities know all too well: This is not a time to wait and see how things will go -- this must be our time to act.

Our work at the Fair Housing Council of Oregon is to promote equal housing opportunity for all. We work to end housing discrimination through education, enforcement and public policy advocacy for inclusive communities throughout our state. And we are the only organization in the state with this specific mission.

I am proud of our staff’s successes over the past year. Our year in fair housing included protecting the fair housing rights of hundreds of clients through our direct interventions; training and educating thousands of housing providers, consumers, service agency staff, housing advocates, and elected officials about their roles and responsibilities with regard to fair housing; and exploring our state’s history of housing discrimination, displacement and segregation with nearly a thousand members of our community to understand how that history shapes our communities today.

Hundreds of residents across the state exercised their fair housing rights and their right to equal housing opportunity with our direct assistance. Here a are few examples of our work:
  • We supported the rights of Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) holders in several small Oregon communities by advocating on their behalf with housing providers that had either refused to accept the payment vouchers or had unfairly discriminated against  voucher holders by requiring a discriminatory amount of matching income.
  • In one coastal community, FHCO spotted a “Sorry no Section 8” advertisement in a local listing – more than two years after this practice was made illegal by the state legislature. We filed a complaint with the state civil rights agency and eventually settled the case with the housing provider, whose behavior we will continue to monitor over the next two years.
  • A recent ruling from HUD on the use of criminal history in rental screening criteria will be part of our focus in the coming year, but this past year, we also helped secure housing for a client whose criminal history was preventing him from finding a place to live comfortably by working with his mental health and drug and alcohol treatment case managers to advocate for his current situation with property managers. 
  • We also assisted a client with limited English-language proficiency finally move into an apartment in her desired complex. The client had been having difficulty navigating a rental company’s application process and continued to be bypassed on a waiting list for apartments. FHCO worked with the client, her social services agency case manager and the property management company to ensure her fair housing rights were being upheld. 
Nearly half of the cases in which we helped clients this past year involved issues related to disability.
  • Earlier this year, FHCO assisted a client with a disability fight a retaliatory eviction. The client was living in an apartment that was in a state of disrepair that was affecting her disability. The resident repeatedly requested repairs, and the property management company eventually agreed that the deteriorating condition was problematic. After a lengthy period of inaction, the tenant contacted a contractor that previously had done repairs in the complex; however, the contractor informed the tenant that they had yet to receive permission from the property manager to conduct the repairs. The tenant went to the management office and was berated for contacting the contractor. Within 15 minutes after the tenant left the management office, she received a no-cause eviction notice.  After the tenant contacted FHCO, we informed the property management company that they could be in violation of fair housing laws for retaliating against someone who had made a request for a reasonable accommodation. The owner of the property management company agreed to rescind the no-cause notice of eviction as well as provide other resolutions the tenant sought.
  • In a Willamette Valley incident, FHCO intervened on behalf a client with a disability who had been denied a reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal and then received a termination notice after obtaining the animal. In the end, the housing provider approved the request for a reasonable accommodation and rescinded the termination notice. 
More than 2,400, housing consumers, providers, advocates, and service agency staff became better equipped to protect their fair housing rights or those of their residents and clients after attending our training and education events across the state. FHCO is a statewide organization, providing services throughout Oregon.

Nearly 1,000 people gained a better understanding about how our state’s discriminatory past has shaped the communities around us today as they rode along on our “Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Been a Bumpy Ride” bus tours of historic housing discrimination, displacement and segregation in Oregon.

We advocated for additional resources to expand stable and affordable housing statewide through the Oregon Housing Alliance 2017 legislative agenda and supported expanding inclusive housing options in the City of Portland through the Residential Infill Project and mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program.

But the communities we serve and the civil rights ideals we strive daily to uphold are under attack.

There is much talk with the incoming presidential administration about rolling back the recent progress made in civil rights and specifically in fair housing.

We cannot stand by to wait and see what fair housing will look like this coming year or the next. 

We must not wait until the basic tenets of the federal Fair Housing Act -- which celebrates its 50th anniversary in less than two years -- come under direct attack.

Now is the time to join the fight for equal opportunity in housing in all of our communities, for all of our neighbors.

Now -- and we mean today -- more than ever, is the time to act by voting with your contribution dollars to support equal housing opportunity throughout Oregon and ensure that fair housing has the future we envision.
Support Civil Rights in Housing -- Please Donate
Bus tour team: top - Shyle Ruder, George Nakata, Sally Leisure, Randy Blazak, Ed Washington, Allan Lazo, Diane Hess; bottom - Valerie Otani, Soojin Hwang, Marleen Wallingford.
Another Year of FHCO’s Powerful “Bumpy Ride” Bus Tour Draws to a Close
In 2017, FHCO took another 1,000 participants on tours addressing our largely hidden history of discrimination, segregation and displacement, and facilitated post-tour dialogues on the impact that history makes on the challenges we face today.

Organizations taking FHCO’s popular tour this year included United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, Wells Fargo, Metro, CASA of Oregon, Multifamily NW, Rosemary Anderson School, Multnomah County, Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, Neighborhood Partnerships, Hacienda CDC, Oregon Community Foundation, the City of Beaverton, Kaiser Permanente, Literary Arts, the Meyer Memorial Trust, Human Solutions, Open School, Nonprofit Association of Oregon, Metropolitan Family Services, Social Venture Partners, New Avenues for Youth and Portland Public Schools. The tour was also featured at the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.
Update: Harassment as a Fair Housing Issue

New HUD Regulation Comes at a Time When Harassment Based on Protected Class is Increasing Dramatically.

By Diane Hess, Education & Outreach Director
 “Harassment, threats and intimidation” based on protected class violate the federal Fair Housing Act (Section 818). This includes acts carried out by housing providers, their staff and vendors, and also by neighbors. All housing providers, including landlords, managers of manufactured/mobile home parks and home owner association (HOA) boards have the legal responsibility to intervene and address harassment based on protected class when both parties live in their communities. In August HUD issued new guidance to reiterate the prohibition on harassment and clarify the liability for housing providers who neglect to intervene.

FHCO’s discrimination hotline has experienced an increase in complaints of harassment based on protected class. This has included harassment based on race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. These have included ongoing verbal attacks, written hateful messages, graffiti and use of social media. A few recent examples include:
  • A property manager in Portland using racial slurs against Hispanic and African American tenants;
  • Residents in a senior property taunting a resident with a traumatic brain injury and purposely trying to hit her service dog;
  • Neighbors shouting homophobic slurs at a lesbian couple and leaving dog feces on their front porch. The manager of the community refused to take any action to address the harassment.
There has been an increase in harassment based on protected class in Oregon and throughout the country over the last year and a half, and a dramatic increase since the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center closely monitors hateful acts nationwide, and ranked Oregon number nine in acts reported. These acts have taken place in a variety of settings, including housing sites, and have targeted immigrants, African Americans, LGBT individuals, Muslims, Jews and women. The SPLC statistics are only an indicator as a fraction of these acts are ever reported.

Oregon landlord tenant law provides generally for the “right of peaceful enjoyment of housing”. Unfortunately, issues of harassment frequently arise in communities over noise, parking, animal waste and disputes between residents’ children. Addressing disputes between residents can be a challenge for housing providers who may opt for mediation, warnings, fines (in HOAs) or notices to terminate tenancy (for rentals).

When harassment between residents is based on protected class, it becomes a fair housing issue and potentially a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Clearly, it is illegal for housing providers to harass their residents and they are liable for harassing behavior committed by their staff and vendors. A common form of illegal harassment is sexual harassment, which includes both creating a “hostile environment,” where a resident feels unsafe, and offering a “quid pro quo”; for example, a reduced rent in return for sexual favors.

If a resident is being harassed by another resident in the community and reports it to their housing provider, the provider must act immediately to investigate and take whatever action is needed to end the problem. There have been cases against providers who knew of persistent hateful harassment and took no action; damages have been as high as $550,000. 

What action landlords choose to take will vary. The law isn’t prescriptive. Different responses may be utilized in different situations. In one example, a property manager in a building where a resident hung up swastika curtains notified all residents they were required to use the blinds that came with their units. HOAs may utilize fines and other consequences. Landlords may follow warnings with notices of termination. There are times when it is necessary to involve law enforcement. After taking action to remedy the problem, providers are required to follow up with the victim of the harassment to ensure the problem has ended.
Quotes from the August, 2016, HUD regulation:
  •  “Corrective action may include verbal and written warnings, enforcing lease provisions to move, evict or otherwise sanction tenants who harass or permit guests to harass.”
  • “Housing providers should follow up to make sure the corrective action was effective.”
  • “Liability arises when the person/entity know or should have known that a resident was harassing another resident and yet, did not take prompt action to correct and end it.”
Final Rule on Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment (PDF)

FHCO recommends housing providers have a clear policy against resident on resident harassment. The policy instructs residents to notify the provider if they experience harassment based on protected class and explains that such harassment will not be tolerated on the property. FHCO has developed a sample policy that has been adopted by many providers in Oregon.

Beyond legal requirements, now is a time when it makes sense for all of us to explore what we would do if someone near us experiences hateful harassment, threats or intimidation. What if a neighbor or the person sitting behind us on the bus or the student at the next desk is harassed because she is a Latina or a lesbian or wears hijab? This is something to think through in advance-when and how would we intervene? How can we best offer support afterwards? One strategy that may yield results is to engage the person being harassed in conversation on a random subject, ignoring the harasser, and then escort the person to a safe place. Clearly, we all need to be aware of our own safety and there may be times when the best strategy is to contact law enforcement.

If you encounter a violent hate crime, report it to 911. Non-criminal harassment should be reported to local law enforcement, the non-emergency number. Police keep track of these incidents and they could be evidence if hate crimes are committed by the same individual or group. 

Oregon Police Departments
Oregon Sheriff Listings

If you experience harassment based on your protected class from a housing provider or if you are harassed by a neighbor in your apartment, HOA or mobile/manufactured home community and management refuses to assist, contact FHCO’s discrimination hotline, 800-424-3247, extension  2.
Calling All Young Artists!
Our 19th Annual Fair Housing Poster Contest is now open, and we are thrilled to present this year’s theme, “It’s Fun Having All Kinds of Neighbors.”  Oregon students in the 1st through 8th grades design their very own poster about the importance of housing and diversity. Winners receive cash prizes, and the chance to have their artwork shown all throughout Oregon. This is a great opportunity to start conversations with your children, students, and other young community members about the value of our civil rights in housing.

We have more information on our poster contest page, including a brochure with the rules and guidelines, and a slideshow of past finalists. Additionally, feel free to contact Soojin Hwang, Program Specialist, with questions or assistance requests: 
Copyright © 2016 Fair Housing Council of Oregon, All rights reserved.

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