Why Economic Developers Hope That “Fair Housing Still Has a Chance Under Trump”

The most recent State of Idaho Assessment of Fair Housing takes an ‘Economic Opportunity Approach’ to what is traditionally perceived as a civil rights issue affecting minority populations and other protected classes. An excerpt follows:

“This study approaches the analysis of fair housing issues through an “opportunity lens.” This was done to:

  • Incorporate recent research that links long‐term economic gains of cities and states to advancing economic growth of residents,
  • Incorporate the latest legal developments around fair housing, and
  • Most importantly, identify where the Grantees can best intervene to improve the economic opportunities of residents and, ultimately the fiscal health, of non‐entitlement communities.”

In other words, the report shows that the overall economic health and stability of a city or state depend on the economic opportunities of all residents. When everyone can access safe, quality housing within their household budget and close to employment or other services, they have more time, energy and income to invest in neighborhoods and communities. At the same time, they are less dependent on public assistance or other social services.

Housing choice (the right to determine where we live and can afford) and stability are essential components in the development of social capital, sometimes defined as “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.”

When individuals and families feel part of a neighborhood or community, they are better able to form trusting relationships and cultivate connections that can lead to opportunities—whether in employment, education, health care or personal growth and development. From the perspective of those who stress personal responsibility and self-reliance, housing choice (aka, ‘Fair Housing’) should be seen as the best investment, hands down.

For an informative and riveting history of the origin and reason for the Fair Housing Act, this 2015 podcast from This American Life and ProPublica is one of the best introductions around. For those short on time, Act Two is particularly fascinating.

The Slate article linked below contemplates the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing  (AFFH) rule and how it may fare moving forward under a new administration. The AFFH rule is intended to implement the core mission of the Fair Housing Act—to increase access to economic and social opportunities through something called housing choice. Where we live determines access to essential services and resources: clean air and water, healthy food, education, employment, police and fire protection, banking and lending, health care—even things like culture and recreation.

“An important rule, enacted late in the Obama administration, is just starting to knock down barriers in some of America’s most segregated places.”

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (or AFFH) rule, promulgated by President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015, marked the first forward momentum for the Fair Housing Act in decades. The rule required jurisdictions that receive federal housing funding to not only document barriers to integration and opportunity, but to detail—and prioritize—policies to eradicate them.

Read more here: Fair Housing Still Has a Chance Under Trump

 

New Wyoming law bans misrepresenting service dogs

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s wearing a bedazzled service animal vest.

As companies pop up to market official-looking ‘service animal’ vests, some people are abusing laws created to allow reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Both disability rights and ‘pet‘ advocates know this is wrong, and fraud is offensive to many individuals and groups, including housing providers.

Here comes the disclaimer:

The fact that some people abuse this law does not mean you should deny a request for reasonable accommodation.

A wise civil rights defense attorney (who represents landlords and property managers) once said that the safest response to any reasonable accommodation request is the following:

“We consider all requests for reasonable accommodation.” 

Considering a request is neither granting nor denying it; it simply means what it says, that you (and preferably your own fair housing or civil rights defense attorney) will evaluate the request in a timely fashion before making a determination. A hasty or poorly informed decision can be costly.

Denying an accommodation can also be devastating to the person who really needs it.

For someone with a hearing or visual impairment, a trained service animal can mean the difference between life and death or independence and isolation. For someone with depression, anxiety or PTSD, an emotional support animal can offer a reason to get out of bed or the ability to face the world. There is an important distinction between these terms, but either can be part of a legitimate reasonable accommodation request.

Learn more about them below:

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals: Where are they allowed and under what conditions?

Real-life scenario. Several years ago, an Idaho landlord called a local organization to ask for a definition of a service animal after a prospective tenant requested an accommodation. He was referred to the ADA definition, which states that the animal is ‘specifically trained to perform a task for the person with a disability.’ He decided that, in his opinion, the animal hadn’t received any special training, and subsequently denied the request.

What he didn’t understand was that the request was for a support animal; because he failed to make a distinction, he asked for and received a definition for a service animal. Although the definitions for emotional support animals were on the same page, he limited his focus to service animals.

And yes, he received a fair housing complaint.

Fraud in this area makes life difficult for everyone, including landlords and property managers, retailers, restaurants and transportation providers. Some people play fast and loose with the law, because abusers know that in most cases they will go unchallenged, and it’s a simple matter to find a ‘third-party professional’ to sign a letter stating the need to take a beloved pet anywhere and everywhere.

Some advocates don’t like to talk about fraud, but denying its existence only further frustrates housing providers—many of whom work hard to comply with fair housing law and simply want to be treated fairly in return.

For the past 20 years, this topic has dominated fair housing training, conferences and court cases in Idaho and elsewhere. Most recently this spring it has been covered by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council and at the Idaho Apartment Association trade show, during a panel discussion titled “Fair Housing Horror Stories.”

The challenge facing everyone—housing providers, advocates and persons living with disability—is to agree on policies that are fair, accountable and defensible. Even service dog owners want to see tougher restrictions. As seen in the following article, they aren’t alone in their frustration over abuse of the law, no matter how rare it might be.

Excerpt from the  via US News:

On July 1, Wyoming will become the 16th state in the nation to enact laws relating to misrepresenting service animals. House Bill 114 makes doing so a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine up to $750.

“This bill was made in an effort to try to protect those that truly do need the protection, and try to detour those who don’t,” said Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, the bill’s lead sponsor.

To read the full article, click link below:

New Wyoming Law Bans Misrepresenting Service Dogs

Free Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Design & Construction Webinars

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST will offer free webinars for architects, engineers and building professionals. Although the in-person training calendar is set in stone for the year (here), these webinars are for those who can’t make it to any of the in-person training.

The webinars will be 90 minutes in length, with 5 minutes for opening remarks and Q&A if time permits, all done via GoToWebinar. Featured modules can be found here. Since FHA FIRST is registered with the American Institute of Architects, architects will receive up to 1½ continuing education HSW credits per webinar.

Each link is for the different webinar’s registration page and we’ll send out a link to view the presentation via GoToWebinar 24 hours and 1 hour before we’re due to begin.

When

For more information, contact Kiera

Download and view webinar fliers below.

April 28 Idaho Fair Housing A to Z Workshop—Boise, ID

Free Fair Housing Workshop

This is FREE training hosted by the Idaho Fair Housing Forum. Consumers, housing providers, managers, realtors, lenders, housing advocates, government personnel and officials—anyone interested in learning about:

  • Fair Housing Act
  • Support Animals
  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Limited English Proficiency Compliance
  • Best Practices for addressing Harassment and Hate
  • Criminal Background
  • Affordable Housing/NIMBYism
  • Occupancy Polices
  • Rules Regarding Children
  • Affirmative Marketing, and more

Learn about your rights and obligations, obtain helpful fair housing materials and resources, and avoid costly litigation! Presenters include Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Housing Provider Attorney David Penny and other community presenters. Times listed are Mountain Time.

Location. Boise City Hall/Council Chambers, 150 North Capitol Boulevard,  Boise, ID 83702

Time. Doors and on-site registration open at 7:30am MST; program begins at 8am MST

Parking is available at various locations downtown.

Registration. To register for on-site attendance in Boise on Friday April 28, click here.

Webcast. To follow via live webcast beginning at 8am MST,  click here.

*For more information contact Brian Dale at 208-334-1338 brian.dale@hud.gov or Zoe Ann Olson of the Intermountain Fair Housing Council at 208-383-0695 or zolson@ifhcidaho.org

Please note.  if your e-mail address is long, be sure to include your phone number with your registration so we can contact you with any updates.

Presentation materials. The following materials were provided by Intermountain Fair Housing Council:

*This is an area of confusion for some. See more information here.