Nearly 50 years ago, the federal Fair Housing Act was put in place to protect residents who seek a safe and productive place to live, but people continue to face discrimination based on race, disability, religion and other demographics, keeping some neighborhoods out of their reach.
More than 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur every year, according to the recently released “Fair Housing Trends Report: The Case for Fair Housing.” The report, published by the National Fair Housing Alliance, addresses residential segregation, initially brought about by “deliberate discriminatory policies and practices” by a range of factors, from the federal government to local communities.
Locally, Fair Housing Contact Service has been working against housing discrimination for more than 50 years. Associate Director Lauren Green-Hull recently spoke to Akron City Council during deliberations for the local non-discrimination ordinance approved in March.
“We are coming up on the 49th anniversary of the Federal Fair Housing Act; however, we still see significant concerns around housing discrimination today,” she said. “Where do you feel safest? Ideally, that is in your home. What if someone told you that you could no longer live in your home because of your race or religion or because of who you loved? Your sense of safety would now be gone.”
“Some advances have been made in making neighborhoods more inclusive; however, people of color, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups continue to be unlawfully shut out of many neighborhoods that provide quality schools and health care, fresh food, employment opportunities, quality and affordable credit, small business investment and other opportunities that affect life outcomes,” said Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “That is why we felt compelled to make the case for fair housing in this comprehensive report.”
According to the report, there were 28,181 complaints of housing discrimination in 2016, with 55 percent of complaints based on disability. Race-based discrimination accounted for 20 percent of claims.
Locally, Fair Housing Contact Service received 60 complaints of housing discrimination and 755 “concerns of discrimination” between 2014 and 2016. The agency also received a grant from the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation to investigate local discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, revealing a 35- to 47-percent rate of discriminatory treatment on this basis.
Of increased concern was the uptick of hate crimes involving people who were harassed in their universities, dormitories or homes, according to the report. “These instances are sometimes reported to local law enforcement but should also be reported to local fair housing centers and NFHA, because we will push to ensure that people who harass or intimidate are held accountable for violating the Fair Housing Act,” said Smith.
About 70 percent of housing discrimination claims are handled by private and local agencies, the report adds.
Residents locally who feel like they’ve encountered discrimination, visit www.fairhousingakron.org for a number of resources and advocacy programs.
Click here to read the 2017 Fair Housing Trends report.