Forum partners welcome HUD training

Boise City Council member Lisa Sanchez welcomed a roomful of housing providers, city and state staff, and local nonprofits on April 26 to a fair housing workshop presented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Attendance was estimated at well over 200, with in-person and individuals watching via webcast throughout Idaho. This is the last workshop during April, where many different groups recognized the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act.


Featured presenter: HUD’s Kristina Miller, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

HUD’s Deputy Northwest Regional Administrator Michael Look kicked off the day by thanking attendees for their time and interest before outlining the history and meaning of the Fair Housing Act, its roots in the U.S. Constitution, and acknowledging those who made it possible. He introduced HUD’s last remaining Idaho field office representative, Senior Management Analyst Brian Dale

HUD reps Kristina Miller, Brian Dale, and Michael Look

Mr. Look emphasized that the economic opportunities made possible through housing choice and mobility go beyond the typical civil rights focus of fair housing. Where we live determines our access to essential community services, social capital and basic amenities. He acknowledged the rights and challenges of housing providers, and his hope that through ongoing training and greater awareness, they could all take steps to avoid violations and associated costs.*

Kristina Miller with the Seattle Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity conducted the day’s training, starting with an overview of fair housing basics, protected classes, prohibited actions , disparate impact and the three-step analysis of policies or practices to determine compliance. She also outlined seven fair housing design and construction standards, and the importance of accommodating our aging population—which applies to everyone.

The main point of fair housing is ‘equal access’ for all.

She also touched on recent HUD guidance on criminal history; that is, if the property involved is covered under the Fair Housing Act, they must maintain and follow a clear criminal background policy that otherwise treats all protected classes the same consideration. A *three-step analysis determines whether a policy has discriminatory effect:

  1. Does the policy result in a discriminatory effect on members of a protected class?
  2. Does the policy achieve a specific, legitimate nondisriminatory interest to the provider?
  3. If yes to #2, is there a less discriminatory alternative to achieve the same effect?

Unjustifiable policies

  • A blanket ban on criminal activity or an arrest record; unless there is a conviction, anyone could be banned without legitimate cause, thus it would be unjustifiable.
  • A blanket ban on all convictions that fails to differentiate between a legitimate threat to life, safety or property or no threat may also be unjustifiable.

View or download the presentation as a .pdf — Fair-Housing-Act-for-4-26-18-presentations

Check back for links to the webcast version.

Everyone wants a bag like Brian’s vintage FHF tote! We’ll get some made and let you how to get yours.

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race

Recent investigative reporting by ProPublica reveals that Facebook continues to allow discriminatory housing ads—long after the practice was exposed—and after Facebook executives vowed to correct those clear violation of the Fair Housing Act.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force.

An excerpt of the article follows:

“Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americansmothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair rampsJewsexpats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.

All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every single ad was approved within minutes.”

This was despite Facebook’s own policy. View the process ProPublica used to test that policy.

See the full article here.

And for those looking for an ADA-compliant, multilingual rental listing and locator option, see www.housingidaho.com

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