Written by Alona Ballard, Education Outreach Manager, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati
Imagine you see your dream apartment online. It’s close to your job, has a great view, and the school district is the one you’ve chosen for your kids. You call and ask if it’s still available. The property manager says, “Sure, come on by and look at it today.” You rush over to check it out, but when you arrive you can feel that you’re not receiving the same welcome that you got over the phone. “We just rented it,” they say. Is it a hot property, or did you just experience housing discrimination?
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati (HOME) has been getting calls regarding situations like this since 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was signed. The Fair Housing Act made it illegal to deny a person housing based on their race, color, sex/gender, national origin, or religion. Familial status and disability were added later. Additionally, this year the Biden administration made it clear that discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community also applies under “sex/gender.”
Covid-19’s Impact on Housing
For nearly two years, the world has dealt with a devastating pandemic that has forever changed the housing industry. Not only will this time in history be remembered for the health crisis, eviction crisis, CDC moratoriums, and CARES Act funding, but the words “social distancing,” are now a part of our daily lexicon. The link between housing and health is a topic that is getting more attention. If you’re in a crowded apartment and you’d like a bigger place so that a family member can be isolated should they contract Covid-19, it’s more important than ever that no property manager or real estate agent stands in the way of you getting any home that you can afford.
What HOME Does
So how does HOME enforce the Fair Housing Act? If you suspect that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, call HOME and we can set up a test. Let’s say you’re a Black woman who was told that an apartment wasn’t available. We would send a white woman wearing a hidden recording device to see if she receives the same answer. Maybe you show up to an open house with a same-sex partner and the real estate agent says, “You two would be more comfortable in a different neighborhood.” HOME can send a heterosexual couple to see if they’re given the full tour. If we discover that discrimination occurred, HOME would file a lawsuit. We have a corps of testers that we call on to do these testing missions. We need a variety of different types of people to do it and we are always looking for new testers. By the way, it’s a paying gig.
HOME Helps with All Kinds of Housing Discrimination
When HOME first started, the majority of the cases filed were due to discrimination based on race, but today the majority of cases are discrimination based on disability. Some of this has to do with property managers not understanding the rights of people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act. People with disabilities are allowed to be granted reasonable accommodations. These are changes in policy or procedures so that the person can have equal enjoyment of the home. Some of the most common reasonable accommodations include parking spaces close to the unit, additional time to move at the conclusion of tenancy, and allowing service or emotional support animals (even in a building deemed pet-free).
Join HOME and the Library for Fair Housing 101 Events
The Library is partnering with HOME to offer a 30-minute virtual presentation detailing what Housing Opportunities Made Equal does, what are the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, Housing and Urban Development’s policy for applicants with criminal records, reasonable disability accommodations, and more.
The first event is virtual and starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link. The second event is in person at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the Westwood Branch Library.
If you think that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, want to become a tester, have a landlord-tenant question, or would like to schedule a fair housing training, call HOME at 513-721-4663 (HOME). Find more information at homecincy.org, opens a new window. Follow us on Facebook, opens a new window, on Twitter, opens a new window, and check out our “Fair Housing” podcast, opens a new window.
Need help with your home relief grant paperwork? Visit the Library for free copy, print, and FAX services.
Watch WCPO’s Lucy May’s story, opens a new window about a Loveland family who recently faced housing discrimination.