Everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to live. However, despite huge advancements in fair housing since the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, housing discrimination is still very prevalent today. Most instances of housing discrimination go unreported, but the National Fair Housing Alliance estimates that there are four million violations of fair housing laws each year.
Individuals, families, and communities must stay vigilant in the fight for fair and affordable housing. Following is a resource guide designed to help those fighting for fair and affordable housing in their communities have an even greater impact.
Today, in the U.S., many communities are suffering from a housing crisis. As the National Low Income Housing Coalition's “Out of Reach 2014' points out, due to low wages, individuals and families can't afford places to live in many of the nation's communities.
Unfortunately, opponents wrongly hold that affordable housing negatively impacts communities, causing crime to rise, schools to worsen, and real estate prices to fall. However, when affordable housing is “fully incorporated' into a community, rather than placed on the outskirts, it attracts businesses, provides citizens access to better schools and job opportunities, and creates diverse, thriving communities.
Know your rights. Many laws and national policies have been created to ensure that every American has equal access to housing. These laws and national policies are administered by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The FHEO offers a brief summary of each of these laws and executive orders here. Learn more about each of them below:
Fair Housing-Related Presidential Executive Orders:
Report housing discrimination. The National Fair Housing Alliance offers a helpful overview of what housing discrimination looks like. Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability should absolutely report the violation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers two options:
2) Call the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line, which enables citizens living in HUD-insured and -assisted properties to report “complaints with a property's management concerning matters such as poor maintenance, dangers to health and safety, mismanagement, and fraud.'
Stay informed. The National Low Income Housing Coalition publishes Tenant Talk, a quarterly newsletter that addresses issues affecting low income tenants. Subscribers can sign up to receive multiple copies of the newsletter so that they can distribute copies to others in their community. Past issues of Tenant Talk are available here. You can also find a variety of housing grants and other down payment assistance programs here.
*If you need help finding affordable housing for your family, check out the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California's six-step process here.
Learn how to recognize housing discrimination. It is important that you understand how to recognize housing discrimination and how to take action when you do. Consumer Action provides a community-based training guide, Recognizing and Fighting Housing Discrimination.
Be active with the Fair Housing Advocacy Agency in your area. The National Fair Housing Advocate Online keeps the public informed about housing discrimination. Learn more about housing discrimination in your area and what you can do by contacting your local Fair Housing Agency.
Take political action. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) offers several ways to fight for and uphold your family's right to fair and affordable housing:
Seek out Tenant and Landlord counseling. If you feel that your family is being discriminated against you can seek out free or in-person counseling. Some communities offer access to housing counselors trained in tenant/landlord law who can inform you how to enforce your rights.
Get your kids involved. It's never too early to learn about the importance of fair housing. That's why HUD created Franklin the Fox, the fair housing mascot. Franklin's Fair Housing Coloring Book teaches kids to “dare to be fair' and introduces them to the basic tenets of fair housing.
Review Community Tool Box's Action Steps. Community Tool Box is a service of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. The group has put together a comprehensive list of “action steps for citizens' seeking to fight for fair and affordable housing in their communities.
Learn how Community Development Block Grant Program funds are used in your community. The CDBG was signed into law by President Ford. It invests billions of dollars into communities to improve public facilities and produce affordable housing.
Fight exclusionary zoning laws. It is still common practice for jurisdictions to try to use zoning laws to prevent affordable housing development in communities. The Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia provides the “Fact Sheet on Fair Housing and Zoning and Land Use,' which overviews this practice, and using examples of past cases, shows how to spot an exclusionary zoning law.
Advocate for inclusionary housing. Inclusionary housing is the practice of requiring that affordable housing be included in all new housing developments. The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California created the Inclusionary Housing Advocacy Toolkit to teach citizens how to advocate for these initiatives in their communities.
Take advantage of HUD outreach tools. HUD offers a wide variety of outreach tools to help you educate those in your community about the importance of fair and affordable housing. The tools include educational brochures, posters, handouts, and more, many of which are available in multiple languages.
Register voters. One of the best ways to take action in your community is to “get out the vote.' This Voter Registration and GOTV Toolkit offers six easy steps for implementing a voting campaign as well as information on how to implement voter registration, education, and mobilization at different types of housing facilities.