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Fair Housing: From Then to Now

Fair Housing Month 2015

Notes from the FHCO Director, Pegge McGuire

This April marks the 47th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). In the initial legislation, race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (gender) were protected.  Subsequently, the protected classes of familial status and disability (handicap) were added to the federal protections.  An important milestone leading to the signing of the FHA was the release of the Kerner Commission’s report, concluding that America was "moving toward two societies, one black and one white – separate and unequal." The report discussed the problems of residential segregation and the formation of racial slums as underlying causes of the urban disorders of 1967. The report also pointed out the connection between racial segregation in housing and in schools.

Over the years, the FHA’s mandate to eliminate segregation and create an integrated America was neglected or ignored by most of those tasked with implementing the Act.  The focus was largely on complaint-driven enforcement against individuals who acted to violate the civil rights of other individuals.  Largely, these complaints fell into the category of landlords, bankers, or real estate agents discriminating against a renter, a borrower, or a home buyer in a housing transaction.  Over time, some complaints, using the theory of disparate impact, have been filed against housing developers, construction firms, financial institutions, real estate corporations, insurance companies, other large scale housing providers, and municipalities.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
With HUD’s issuance of draft rules regarding affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) in 2013, focus has been placed on the full intention of the FHA and its subsequent amendments. Government jurisdictions receiving federal funds from one of more than 22 federal agencies are required to reverse the historic discrimination that was created by using public funds for infrastructure and housing development.  They are required to proactively analyze and evaluate existing patterns of discrimination and affirmatively make the changes needed to ensure that equitable housing opportunity exists for everyone in the community, and in particular, ensure that those groups that have faced historic barriers are part of these planning and decision-making processes.

FHCO staff members have spent the past few years building our capacity to understand and provide technical assistance to local communities about the role that land use planning and zoning play in creating and perpetuating segregation in housing.  We have created a wonderful set of tools to help land use decision-makers, local community advocates, and affordable housing developers understand the concepts of AFFH and to analyze local zoning and planning laws, policies, and practices for potential or existing discriminatory outcomes. 

Click here to find our toolkit materials and our AFFH video 

Additions to Protected Classes in Oregon
Earlier, I mentioned the FHA’s original and current protected classes.  Over time, our state has created protections for people based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, survivorship of domestic violence, and source of income. (A number of articles in prior newsletters have detailed the recent changes in the source of income protection, which now includes renters who receive a subsidy from one of many sources, but, most notably, for those who participate in the Section 8 program, administered through local housing authorities.)  Some local communities, recognizing that some populations have been the targets of discrimination, have added additional protected classes such as age, occupation, etc. Some communities in other states have added political beliefs, veterans, past criminal history, and other protected categories to their laws and ordinances. Just as the original authors of the FHA did not know what additions future law makers would add to federal, state, and local protected classes, we don’t know what other groups may need additional consideration in the future.
 
Recently, one of my fair housing colleagues said, when she conducted training with me around the state, “you have an easy job; people in Oregon WANT to do the right thing”! Annually, we meet with more than 3,000 people as we travel across Oregon and conduct workshops, conferences, seminars, and webcasts.  It has been a source of great pleasure to our education and outreach staff to compare the attendees we meet today with those we were training back in 1990, when our agency was founded.  The audiences are well informed, ask challenging and interesting questions, and generally are enthusiastic to learn more about fair housing.

This is not to say that we don’t find victims of discrimination in our daily work.  During the past year, we served almost 3,000 clients on our statewide toll-free hotline, and of those, more than 400 contacts articulated bona fide allegations of fair housing discrimination.  I am pleased to report that we were able to resolve more than 300 of those potential complaints informally.  That is to say, FHCO’s capable and dedicated intake staff members worked hard to mediate satisfactory resolutions to the concerns and kept people housed, helped people obtain housing, and prevented costly administrative and legal complaint activities. Contacts with a concern that was not a fair housing matter received information or a referral to someone who could more appropriately assist them.

FHCO Resources
Over the years, we have developed many resources that we hope will prevent discrimination from taking place.  We have created educational materials for homeowner’s associations, guides for new landlords, guides for the third parties who verify reasonable accommodation requests, resource materials for local governments and other policy makers, materials for shelter providers and other non-profit housing providers, training information for adult foster care home providers, and many more housing providers.  We have also created a wide range of materials for people who may be victims of illegal discrimination in housing, to help them understand and access their rights.  We have also translated these materials into many, many languages.  And, last year, we created a graphic brochure for people who find it difficult to read English.  You can browse our materials at: www.fhco.org 

Fair Housing Month Activities
In celebration of Fair Housing Month, FHCO and jurisdictions across Oregon have planned a variety of activities.  These include:
  • Showings of our educational display, "Anywhere but Here: The History of Housing Discrimination in Oregon" in areas around the state, including a public showing at Portland City Hall April 8th-20th;
  • Collaborating with the Mexican Consulate in Portland to reach hundreds of Mexican immigrants with bi-lingual workshops and one-on-one assistance  for a full week in mid-April;
  • Creating a new video featuring community leaders sharing their unique perspectives of the meaning of fair housing today. The video will be shown on an ongoing basis at educational presentations statewide and will be shown on vimeo as well;
  • Conducting a number of our popular bus tours, "Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Been a Bumpy Ride", covering the history of discrimination, segregation and displacement in Oregon and current challenges today; and,
  • Holding the 17th annual Fair Housing Poster Contest, involving hundreds of children from throughout Oregon in creating artwork that celebrates diverse communities. Copies of the grand prize winning poster are posted throughout the state at schools, agencies, governmental offices, apartment complexes and many other locations. We will be conducting presentations about fair housing to children at schools and youth programs over the next three months.

We hope you will be able to enjoy some of these activities as a way to commemorate the importance of that landmark event 47 years ago as well as to help us commemorate the founding of our agency 25 years ago this November. 
Samantha Tan of Hillsboro Wins 2015 Fair Housing Poster Contest Again!
Out of hundreds of entries, we have ten winners for this year's competition. Here are their names, visit (and Like!) our Facebook page to see all ten winning entries.

Grades 6 - 8
1st Place Mayra Jacquez, 8th Grade, Dayton
2nd Place Joslyn Hui, 6th Grade, McMinnville
3rd Place, Dylan Anderson, The Dalles

Grades 4 - 5
1st place Julia Leytner, 5th Grade, Troutdale
2nd place Delia Valdiviz, 4th Grade, Lafayette
3rd Place Morgana Cartwright, 5th grade, Portland

Grades 1 - 3
1st Place Esther Arellano, 3rd Grade, McMinnville
2nd Place Jesus Castellanos, 3rd Grade, McMinnville
3rd Place Jasmine Bohanon, Gresham

Latino Cultural Festival

The Fair Housing Council, in partnership with Washington County Community Development, will be participating in the 2015 Latino Cultural Festival on Sunday, April 12 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in downtown Hillsboro. The Festival features entertainment, food and various exhibitors. Come see us there!

EPA Cracks Down on Lead-Based Paint Violators in Oregon 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 10 office released a report in February of their environmental compliance and enforcement actions in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington for the previous quarter.  

There were two Oregon entities on the list -- one in Damascus and another in Portland -- that were found to have violated the lead-based paint disclosure requirements.
 
If you're not familiar with the requirements to disclose to housing consumers (prior to contract and prior to many repairs and renovations) lead-based paints hazards in homes built prior to 1978, be sure to get up-to-speed today!
 
Some important resource sites include:
http://www.fhco.org/information-for-housing-providers/lead-hazards
https://multco.us/health/lead-poisoning-prevention/about-leadline
http://www2.epa.gov/lead
 
If you have questions, contact the free LeadLine at (503) 988-4000.

Hoarding as a Fair Housing Issue: 
Beyond Reality TV

By Elizabeth Gray, FHCO Intake Specialist
  • Hoarding behaviors affect housing
  • FHCO’s ongoing participation in Multnomah County Hoarding Taskforce
  • Hoarding as a disability
  • Resources online and locally
A fire or ambulance crew can’t safely respond to a medical emergency in a single family home because the resident has belongings stacked up to the ceiling and blocking many windows or doors.  

A tenant living in an apartment faces eviction when he or she fails to pass a follow-up inspection after several warnings about lease violations related to items that create a tripping hazard, fire danger, or limit access to the maintenance worker.  The tenant then contacts their case manager in a panic. 


 These are just two examples of what could be hoarding-like behavior.  Hoarding is distinct from simply building a collection, which is usually displayed with pride, or letting a few days of dishes and laundry pile up when life gets busy.   A person who has been diagnosed with hoarding has a disability under the Fair Housing Act.  Hoarding has been added to the DSM-5, the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s classification and diagnostic tool, and is now recognized as diagnosable independent of other mental health conditions.  

Click here to read more about how FHCO is increasing our capacity to offer technical assistance in hoarding situations.

If you haven't already liked our Facebook page, help us reach 500 Likes to celebrate Fair Housing Month!
Copyright © 2015 Fair Housing Council of Oregon, All rights reserved.


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