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.

Idaho Transportation Draft Plan Public Open Houses

Idaho Transportation Department

You are invited to review the draft Idaho Transportation Plan and share ideas that will help shape your community and future developments. See more details here.

Each of the Idaho Transportation Department’s six districts will feature an open house to review the DRAFT version of the statewide Public Transportation Plan. This plan address public transportation in Idaho and sets goals and strategies for the next five years for the Idaho Transportation Department’s Public Transportation Office as well as the public transportation providers.

Contact: 208-334-8822 or *protected email*

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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

Idaho Fair Housing Cases

This section is provided as a courtesy to those seeking information on past cases filed and/or settled in Idaho. The list will be updated as cases are provided; the information below was provided by the Intermountain Fair  Housing Council as context for the 2016 Assessment of Fair Housing. Cases are organized by the protected class issues at the heart of the complaint.

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