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Fair Housing

Cities can build on federal protections to prevent housing discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, gender, country of origin, family status, and disability. In addition, the Housing and Community Development Act requires that localities receiving Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG, take steps to “affirmatively further fair housing,” such as analyzing and eliminating housing discrimination, promoting fair housing for all persons, and providing for inclusive patterns of housing occupancy.


Nevertheless, residential segregation still exists in the United States, and housing discrimination is a sad fact of life for many Americans. As a result, cities across the United States have taken innovative steps to deal with the problem and expand upon the federal government’s commitment to fair housing.


Such steps include expanding the federal prohibition to include discrimination on the basis of source of income, arrest or conviction record, gender identity, sexual orientation, previous housing status, and citizenship status. Cities can conduct education and outreach on fair housing law and tenants’ rights, especially in vulnerable or limited-English-speaking communities. Local governments also fund fair-housing testing services and bring enforcement actions against housing providers who discriminate against protected classes.


To encourage such measures, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new rule on July 2015 meant to equip communities that receive federal funding with data and tools to help them meet fair housing obligations. The rule requires cities and towns that receive Federal money to examine their housing patterns and look for racial bias. The rule aims to promote racial integration, particularly in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore, which have neighborhoods with a high preponderance of African American residents. 

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule Guidebook, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, December 31st, 2015. Read more.

Where You Live Matters: 2015 Fair Housing Trends Report, National Fair Housing Alliance, January 1st, 2015. Read more.

Diversity Date Resource, Diversitydata.org, Harvard School of Public Health, January 1st, 2014. Read more.

City of Shaker Heights History, City of Shaker Heights, July 23rd, 2013. Read more.

Lifelong Communities, Laura Keyes, January 15th, 2013. Read more.

Ludlow: Our Civil Rights Landmark, Sue Starrett, Shaker Online, September 18th, 2012. Read more.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity Goes Local: Charting Change in American Communities Over Three Decades, Barrett A. Lee, John Iceland, and Gregory Sharp, Department of Sociology and Population Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University, September 1st, 2012. Read more.

America’s Racially Diverse Suburbs: Opportunities and Challenges, Myron Orfield and Thomas Luce, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity University of Minnesota Law School, July 12th, 2012. Read more.

Watch These American Cities Segregate, Even As They Diversify, Emily Badger, The Atlantic Cities, June 25th, 2012. Read more.

Hardly the End of Segregation, Patricia Fron, Morgan Davis, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, February 7th, 2012. Read more.

Why your block is more integrated, Jacob Vigdor, New York Daily News, February 1st, 2012. Read more.

Finding Common Ground: Coordinating Housing and Education Policy to Promote Integration, Deborah McKoy & Jeffrey M. Vincent, October 1st, 2011. Read more.

International Flair, Nancy O'Connor, ShakerOnline, May 1st, 2009. Read more.

Racial Blind Spots: A Barrier to Integrated Communities in Chicago, Maria Krysan, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Departmnet of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, June 1st, 2008. Read more.

Policy Forum - Racial Segregation in Metropolitan Chicago Housing, Tyrone Forman and Maria Krysan, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, February 1st, 2008. Read more.

Checklist of Essential Features of Age-Friendly Cities, World Health Organization, January 1st, 2007. Read more.

Keeping the Neighborhood Affordable: A Handbook of Housing Strategies for Gentrifying Areas, Diane K. Levy, Jennifer Comey, Sandra Padilla , Urban Institute, March 17th, 2006. Read more.

A Primer on Fair Housing Law, The John Marshall Law School, Fair Housing Legal Support Center & Clinic. Read more.

Fair housing compliance: local government considerations, Idaho Fair Housing Forum. Read more.

Fair Housing Guide, Fair Housing Justice Center. Read more.

Fair Housing Laws, The Leadership Conference. Read more.

Building Community, Building Opportunity, Oak Park Regional Housing Center. Read more.

Subtle Forms of Discrimination Still Exist for Minority Homeseekers, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research. Read more.

In Madison, WI, ordinance 39.03 of the municipal code prohibits discrimination based on source of income, arrest or conviction record, and gender identity as additional protected classes. The ordinance, which was approved in 1963, encompasses 23 protected classes.


In New York, NY, the Commission on Human Rights enforces the City Human Rights Law, which protects individuals from discrimination in housing based on lawful source of income, occupation and citizenship status, among others.


On February 2016, the city council of Chicago, IL, approved amendments to the Human Rights and Ordinance and the Fair Housing Ordinance, expending the protection from discrimination in housing and other areas for veterans and active duty military personnel. The amendment created a new protected class under the ordinances for "military status," which also includes reservists and members of the National Guard.


Miami, FL, has filed suit on December 2013 against Bank of America, CitiGroup, and Wells Fargo. The city is alleging that these banks violated the Federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern and practice of issuing predatory mortgage loans to minority residents, resulting in a rash of foreclosures.


On May 2016, the City of Seattle, WA, has filed charges of illegal discrimination against 23 different property owners, after a new round of fair housing testing showed evidence of housing discrimination. The testing revealed that prospective renters experienced different treatment from Seattle landlords across all three categories that were tested: familial status, disability, and use of a federal Section 8 voucher.


In Los Angeles, CA, the Housing + Community Investment Department administers a contract with the Southern California Housing Rights Center (HRC) to provide a citywide fair housing program, including: (1) Investigations of housing discrimination complaints concerning housing for rent or sale, advertising, lending, insurance, steering, blockbusting and hate crimes; (2) Remedies for valid complaints, including conciliations, legal action and administrative referrals to state and federal fair housing agencies; (3) Multilingual counseling on fair housing and predatory lending issues; (4) Multilingual property owner, manager and realtor training sessions; and (5) Educational seminars, workshops and presentations on fair housing.


Mariah Young-Jones