The U.S. Fair Housing Law 2019

April 2019, has marked the fifty-first anniversary of the passage of the U.S. Fair Housing Law, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which enunciates a national policy of Fair Housing without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, and encourages fair housing opportunities for all citizens.

The Rockford Housing Authority and Prairie State Legal Services, working with The City of Rockford, are committed to the Fair Housing Law. By continuing to address discrimination in our community, to support programs that will educate the public about the right to equal housing opportunities, and to plan partnership efforts with the Rockford Housing Authority, Prairie State Legal Services, and other community organizations to help assure everyone in our community of their right to fair housing. Given the fundamental importance of a cross-cutting strategy that addresses the U.S. Fair Housing Law, the Rockford Housing Authority is committed to the continued effort to build a stronger community where all residents can live and prosper.

THE ISSUE

Millions of working households face significant challenges in finding affordable housing. In the U.S. and the Rockford community, housing costs continue to rise, particularly for working renters, who saw their median housing costs grow. These same households face a multitude of types of discrimination. With more working households renting their homes, demand for rental housing continues to grow, pushing rents even higher. The affordability of a home challenges workers and their family. According to Housing Action Illinois, “Nationwide, a total of 28,843 complaints alleging housing discrimination were filed in 2017, and 56% of these were people seeking housing with disabilities.” Unfortunately, they did not gain any protection under the law until 1988.

Over the past five years, RHA has implemented significant change in the focus on community engagement and citizen involvement. This focus includes expanded affordable housing discussions. These discussions range from policy and process to design. These discussions have included an array of participants with a heavy focus on the residents of affordable housing so that past public practice of “doing for or doing to” changes to “doing with” and ensuring as many voices as possible are heard. In this process of listening, collective planning and action, it is the goal to hear and address all concerns. Affordable housing comes with many concerns – real and mythical.

WHAT IS FAIR HOUSING?

Generally, working households refers to households where family members work a total of at least 20 hours a week on average. Low- and moderate-income working families have the greatest housing cost burdens, these are the households that are paying over half their income for housing costs in a community. These lowest Income Households face innumerable difficulties in many aspects of their life. Federal housing assistance can alleviate the cost burden of extremely low- and very low-income households because they can cap a household’s rent payments at 30 percent of monthly household income.

However, the need for housing assistance in the U.S. far exceeds the programs’ current reach. According to the evidence-based data provided by the JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY, “high housing costs have eroded the recent income gains among these households, leaving many renters with even less money to pay for other basic needs.”

Creating a greater supply of affordable rental units is only half of the equation, however. Also, there is a strong need to help working households to better afford their housing. Data provided by Housing Action Illinois, demonstrates, that In the State of Illinois 58.4% of African American renter households, and 48.4% of Hispanic renter households, spent 30% or more of their income on housing. Rental housing help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) comes in many forms, including Housing Choice Vouchers, property-based Section 8 rental assistance, HOME funds, and the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which combines the Housing Choice Voucher program for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

THE FIVE-YEAR PLAN

RHA plays a unique and pivotal role in preserving, protecting, and expanding the number of affordable rental housing options in neighborhoods of the community. As part of the Fair Housing Law, RHA has incorporated into its Five-year Plan specific goals and objectives to continue to address discrimination in our community and to provide homes that are decent, safe, and sanitary. This Plan provides the RHA team, along with their strategic partners, community organizations, and the private development community, with the tools and strategies needed to preserve and promote safe and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income renters in the community. Without such safeguards, the much-needed resources and the benefits of new services may be out of reach for those who need them the most, due to financial and cultural barriers. Substandard and deficient rental housing jeopardize the health, safety, and welfare of all residents in the Rockford community.

THE ROCKFORD HOUSING AUTHORITY’S FIVE-YEAR PLAN OF PRODUCT AND SERVICES

The Rockford Housing Authority’s Goals:

  1. Through demolition, dispositions, or a combination of redevelopment and demolition, transition our residents into modern affordable housing family developments.
  2. Improve the Scattered Sites program
  3. Improve and modernize the high-rise and low-rise buildings
  4. Require greater accountability for participants and landlords of all HCV programs
  5. Maximize accountability for public housing residents through strengthening lease enforcement and lease provisions as well as enhanced monitoring and training.
  6. Continue to focus on curb appeal of the exterior and interior of all our developments
  7. Provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing.

The Rockford Housing Authority’s Performance Objectives:

  1. Provide safe, modern quality housing with respected/valued tenants
  2. Link tenants to landlords that provide quality, affordable housing
  3. Develop a strategy/plan to develop our family sites for the future
  4. Provide residents with quality programming
  5. Increasing opportunity and self-sufficiency
  6. Partner with community agencies to provide opportunities for additional support services

OUR CONTINUED MISSION

The Rockford Housing Authority believes that Individuals, families, and the community must stay vigilant in the fight for fair and affordable housing. It is important that everyone understands how to recognize housing discrimination and how to take action when they do. It’s important to understand and know one’s rights when a resident is looking to rent. RHA is also of the belief that more housing of all kinds be available in the Rockford area, in every neighborhood, available for all people, of all levels of income.

It is our continued mission is to provide opportunities to people who experience barriers to housing because of income, disability, or special needs. It is our goal to fulfill that mission in an environment which preserves personal dignity, and in a manner, which maintains the public trust.

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES USED FOR THIS ARTICLE

PRAIRIE STATE LEGAL SERVICES

Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS) is a civil legal aid organization with 12 offices serving 36 counties throughout northern and central Illinois. The organization is a not-for-profit law firm that provides free civil legal services to senior citizens and low-income persons in northern and central Illinois. PSLS has service offices in Bloomington, Galesburg, Joliet, Kankakee, McHenry, Ottawa, Peoria, Rockford, Rock Island, St. Charles, Waukegan, and Wheaton.

HUD

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and https://espanol.hud.gov.

HUD published two reports based on the 2014 pilot study on housing discrimination against families with children in rental housing markets. View the Findings of the Pilot Study.

Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

HOUSING ACTION ILLINOIS

Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. http://housingactionil.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/fair-housing/

THE CITY OF ROCKFORD

Aside from federal and state laws, the City of Rockford has a fair housing ordinance that prohibits discrimination and provides protection for specific classes of people based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. This protection extends only to situations that occur within the Rockford city limits. Situations that occur outside the city limits should be referred to either that municipalities local government offices, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, or the fair housing division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The City of Rockford recently partnered with Prairie State Legal Services’ Fair Housing Project to educate Rockford-area residents and increase awareness of fair housing rights by creating a short video.

Learn More: https://rockfordil.gov/city-departments/community-and-economic-development/neighborhood-development/