Mar 30, 2010

News Roundup: March 15-26

NFHA President Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee
(Reading the full testimony is strongly recommended for anyone interested Fair Housing issues.)

On March 11, Shanna Smith of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NHFA) testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommitte on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, with a presentation titled "Protecting the American Dream: A Look at the Fair Housing Act."

The testimony emphasizes that in spite of our efforts, the nation still falls "dramatically short of reaching the actual goals of the Fair Housing Act" which is designed to "eliminate housing discrimination and to promote residential integration." "While people are working together in greater numbers than ever before--many go home each night to racially segregated neighborhoods."

Shanna "explores the nature and extent of housing discrimination as it is manifested today, how enforcement action is moving from the individual case by case format to addressing systemic segregation and discrimination, albeit slowly, and why systemic enforcement actions using disparate impact arguments can make important and needed progress in achieving the Congressional intent of the law. I also discuss how the Fair Housing Act could still be improved to fight discrimination against additional protected classes and to address other issues that have arisen since 1968. Finally, I discuss the recommendations necessary to make enforcement of the law effective." (Full Testimony Here)

The issue highlights numerous significant developments in the Fair Housing field.

HUD Launches Website to Gather Public Comment on LGBT Housing Discrimination Study
It is no longer necessary to attend one of HUD's official LGBT discrimination study listening sessions after the introduction of a new website that allows for public comment over the internet (Press Release and "Online Suggestion Box").

Can the FHA prohibit racist expressions where the first amendment does not?
Michael Corrigan, 62, of West Beverly neighborhood in Chicago, had signs on his property for nearly a year which read, "Say no to the ghetto," "White power," "Mt. Greenwood - the next Englewood," a sticker reading "White Pride Worldwide," and a tiny noose hanging from his garage.

Chicago Human Relations Commission chairman Dana Starks stated that the display "may have crossed the line into violations of federal and state fair housing laws that prohibit interferences with the purchase and sale of housing based on race."

The Commission is urging federal and state authorities to take notice of the issue and possibly charge Corrigan for any violations they may find.

Spokesman Kenneth Gunn of the Commission suggested that the signs may have a "chilling effect" on minorities looking to buy a home in the area (Chicago Examiner Article).

Recently, Fox News, through a freedom of information request, obtained a copy of the letter sent to the United State's Attorney General Eric Holder by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations in which "Commissioner Starks said the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance is not applicable in this case, but the federal Fair Housing Act is. The Act allows for the feds to take action when intimidation is used to discourage people from buying a home because of their race."

Can the FHA prohibit offers of "free rent" to females posted on Craigslist?
The Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) has filed 20 complaints with HUD over Craigslist ads offering free rent to women, some of which detail feature characteristics like light skin, and are thought to be solicitations for sex.

Can the FHA's prohibition on advertisements targeted towards a specific gender help stop these alleged offers of sex for housing? Investigator Amy Nelson of HOME believes it can (Full Article Here).

Another Craigslist Quandary: "Bro Palace-America"
The ad seeks a "bro of epic proportions" to join a group of bros who "like to party hard and bang chicks even harder…in this "Temple to Broseidon." Is there a way around NIMBY? (Full Article Here).

New Book, 'Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City' by Antero Pietila
"The bottom line is this: Gentiles excluded Jews and blacks from their neighborhoods using both legal and illegal means. Unscrupulous speculators took advantage of home sellers and buyers. Mortgage companies redlined neighborhoods where people could not get a regular mortgage, forcing them to rely on unscrupulous rent-to-buy schemes. With blockbusting techniques, flipping, and subprime mortgages, Baltimore neighborhoods and bank accounts were destroyed - to say nothing of people's souls" (Baltimore Sun Review).

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