Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are We a 'Nation of Cowards'?

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to be appointed to the office, delivered a somewhat sobering speech to Department of Justice employees yesterday, marking Black History Month.

While praising significant achievements in our country's racial history, Mr. Holder claimed that "in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards." He further noted that there is "no significant interaction" between people of different races outside the workplace, and that much in this regard hasn't changed in 50 years ago.

Here's the relevant excerpt from his remarks:
As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

Do you agree with the new Attorney General? Are we a "nation of cowards" in matters of race? Are we much more integrated in the workplace than in the housing and social arena? If so, why do you think this is the case? What can or should be done to foster understanding and end segregation?

What do you think?

Friday, February 13, 2009

State's Fair Housing Awareness Campaign Omits Own Fair Housing Law

The New York State Division of Human Rights has been running a statewide ad campaign to promote public awareness of housing discrimination laws. (I spotted them for the first time back in November.) Each ad focuses on a different protected class under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and then lists them all, stating: "Housing discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability is unlawful."

However, as Gay City News pointed out last week, the ads don't tell the whole story. Missing from the ads is a list of the additional protected classes included under New York's housing discrimination law, which include sexual orientation, age, and military status, among others. Apparently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in giving New York $500,000 in funding for the ad campaign, required that the ads list the FHA's protected classes but didn't limit it to just that. However, a HUD official reportedly pointed out that New York's omission of the state information is consistent with how other states have spent federal dollars.

In light of these developments, New York is planning to spend the remaining $12,000 it has in federal funds for ads aimed at the lesbian and gay community that promote the fact that New York also bars housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to Gay City News.

Should New York have promoted awareness of its own housing discrimination law along with the federal law?

What do you think?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Unwelcome Advances Lead to an Unwelcome Complaint

On January 29, 2009, the DOJ filed a fair housing complaint in a federal district court against both the landlord and manager of 11 single-family dwellings in Ypsilanti, Michigan, alleging "severe, pervasive, and unwelcome sexual harassment."

For at least the last few years, the manager allegedly made unwanted verbal sexual advances, entered female tenants' apartments without permission or notice, granted and denied tangible housing benefits based on sex, and took adverse action against female tenants when they refused or objected to his sexual advances. Although the landlord apparently didn't engage in such conduct, the DOJ believes he should also be held liable because the manager acted as his agent and because the landlord "knew or should have known" about the manager's conduct yet did nothing to stop it.

Assuming the landlord himself didn't commit sexual harassment, should he be held liable in this type of situation? If so, should it be to the same extent as the manager? Should the landlord's liability depend on whether or not he actually knew what the manager was doing?

What do you think?