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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fair Housing Poster Contests Announced As Fair Housing Month Nears

April will be here before we know it, and so local organizations across the United States have recently announced poster contests in honor of Fair Housing Month.

Here's a sampling of local fair housing month poster contests that encourage children to be creative while at the same time educating communities about the Fair Housing Act and related laws:
  • Silver State Fair Housing Council (SSFHC) of Washoe County, Nevada is hosting its 15th annual Fair Housing Poster Contest for students in the first through eighth grades with the theme, "Fair Housing: Welcome Home." There are several prizes for top honors, including savings bonds, but all participants will receive a certificate of recognition. Participation in the contest "fosters a better sense of understanding, acceptance, and appreciation for the diversity in our neighborhoods and throughout our community," according to SSFHC, which saw 635 entries in last year's contest. Deadline for entries: February 25, 2011. For full details, including rules and an entry form, visit SSFHC's Fair Housing Poster Contest 2011 Web page.
  • The Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO), along with Oregon Housing Community Services and the Oregon Business and Development Department, is hosting its 14th annual Fair Housing Poster Contest. Students in the first through eighth grades are invited to submit entries that illustrate the theme, "Won't You Be My Neighbor? Fair Housing for Everyone." Prizes will be awarded within three age categories. According to the FHCO, the "poster contest is a great way to teach kids about the importance of civil rights." Deadline for entries: March 17, 2011. For full details, consult the FHCO's Contest Brochure 2011.

  • The Wisconsin Fair Housing Network is again sponsoring a Fair Housing Poster and Essay Contest. Open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the contest aims "to promote the concepts of choice and equality in housing." Awards will be conferred to those participants whose entries best reflect the theme, "Fair Housing: On the Right Track." Deadline: April 15, 2011. Read the Network's announcement for more information on contest rules and eligibility, as well as a helpful summary of fair housing rights.

  • The Frederick County Association of Realtors® is sponsoring its annual Fair Housing Poster Contest "to help increase awareness of this important issue." Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are invited to submit entries on the theme, "Fair Housing Means a Place to Call Home." Winning entries from the county will then vie for state honors, which includes being featured in the Maryland Association of Realtors®' 2012 Fair Housing Calendar. Deadline: February 11, 2011. Read the contest brochure for complete information.

Friday, January 21, 2011

HUD Pushes Forward With LGBT Proposals

In October 2009, I blogged about how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced certain proposals aimed at ensuring that people can participate in federal housing programs without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yesterday, HUD followed up with an announcement that shows the department is committed to turning its proposals into reality:
  1. HUD's proposed rule. HUD issued a proposed rule that takes certain measures aimed at protecting renters and homeowners from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Among the measures are:

    • a provision clarifying that the term "family," as used to describe eligible beneficiaries of public housing and voucher programs (which currently provide assistance to over three million families), includes LGBT applicants;

    • a provision broadly defining gender identity as "actual or perceived gender-related characteristics" (emphasis added); and

    • a provision specifying that any FHA-insured mortgage loan must be based only on the credit-worthiness of a borrower, without regard to characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender identity.

    The rule ("Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs — Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity") will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, January 24, at which time public comments will be accepted for a 60-day period.

  2. HUD's first-ever national study. HUD announced it will conduct the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in both the rental and sale of housing. In the past, HUD has conducted such a study only on the basis of race and color.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Played a Unique Role in Fair Housing History

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is observed in the United States today, played a key role in the passage of housing discrimination laws both during his lifetime and posthumously.

As a civil rights leader promoting racial equality, Dr. King led open housing marches to protest segregation. His assassination in 1968 put the Fair Housing Act (FHA) on the fast track to passage, with President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the landmark piece of civil rights legislation into law just one week later.

Read a brief account of the history of fair housing, spotlighting Dr. King's role, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the primary federal agency charged with enforcing the FHA today.