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U.S. Co-Op Housing Issues Law Blog

HUD seeks change in fair housing rules for localities

Many people in Michigan and across the country are watching with interest ongoing developments in fair housing law. In August, the Department of Housing and Urban Development began to make changes to the rules that guide local jurisdiction in compliance with and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration had suspended a rule drafted by the Obama administration that was intended to assist local areas in meeting their obligations under the FHA to avoid housing discrimination and provide options for affordable housing.

HUD said that its changes to the rules were meant to reduce the burden of regulations on local jurisdiction as well as providing stronger support for local control. Advocates for the changes argued that they would increase the supply of available housing. The department argued that the earlier rule was overly prescriptive and discouraged localities from creating affordable places to live. The department also withdrew a tool used to assess and file plans for affordable housing in their areas under the earlier rule.

Couple files lawsuit after being barred by senior community

Michigan residents may be aware that the Fair Housing Act protects individuals against discrimination based on gender and other attributes. However, a Missouri retirement community called Friendship Village recently rejected a lesbian married couple citing the fact that they were married. This was after they toured the facilities and made a $2,000 deposit. Friendship Village reportedly believes that marriage is between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.

In a lawsuit, the couple claims that this violates the Fair Housing Act. One of the women says that she didn't check to see if the couple's lifestyle would be an issue because other facilities had said it would not be. They chose Friendship Village over the other options because of cost and the care that was made available to them. Legal professionals have mixed opinions as to how the case will be decided. One said that the law will probably side with the retirement community as it is a private organization.

Minorities more likely to live in dangerous conditions

People of color in Michigan and throughout the country are often shown homes in areas with poor environmental quality compared to white people. This is the finding of a study prepared for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Its results show that people of color are often steered into neighborhoods that are close to toxic sites or that have high levels of air pollution.

The research was based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during its own housing discrimination study. That study looked at neighborhoods in 28 American cities and found that certain characteristics determined where individuals were most likely to live. The HUD study used both white and minority actors who presented themselves as similarly qualified to buy a home. Information about the homes suggested to them was then compared with Environmental Protection Agency data.

Michigan housing community under investigation for discrimination

Bay View Association in Petoskey is under investigation for allegedly requiring homeowners to have Christian beliefs as a condition of residency. In addition, homeowners there have claimed that they aren't allowed to transfer their property to family members who aren't Christian. This is despite the fact that the community was told by the U.S. Department of Federal Housing that it isn't exempt from an anti-discrimination law.

In 2016, there were 18 complaints filed against Bay View claiming that the rule violated the Federal Fair Housing Act. A court hearing has been scheduled for July 30. Those who are in favor of the rule believe that it leads to more financial assistance as well as support from volunteers. They say that this is because the residents are fully invested in the Christian lifestyle that the community promotes. The association requires that a church leader confirm that cottage owners are members of the church or attend services.

Sexual harassment victims have rights

Those who are seeking housing in Michigan may find that they are the victims of sexual harassment. While victims can be of either gender, they are often single women with children or those who have limited housing options because of their income. Regardless of whether harassment is physical or verbal, it is illegal under the Fair Housing Act. Despite this, victims often choose not to report what has happened to them.

Typically, those who experience sexual harassment fear that they won't be able to stay where they are if they do speak up. However, those who do talk about their experiences could be entitled to compensation or other legal relief. In a case involving a Detroit property manager, a jury found that the manager and a landlord were liable for sexually harassing six tenants. They were ordered to pay $115,000 to the tenants.

HUD dumps housing segregation rule

Michigan readers may be concerned to learn that the Trump administration is eliminating a rule that helps communities enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968, or FHA. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published the decision in the federal register on May 23. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, or AFFH, rule required cities and towns to prove they had plans to reduce segregation before they could receive federal funds. Created by the Obama administration, the rule was intended to provide cities with a comprehensive tool to measure their compliance with the FHA, which has been poorly enforced since its passage. However, before scrapping it, HUD had already taken steps to delay the rule's implementation for several years, which prompted the State of New York and a group of housing activists to sue the administration.

According to one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit, AFFH has had a "transformative" effect on communities that have used it. The lawsuit contends that HUD broke the law when it gave no notice and held no comment period prior to yanking the rule. It further contends that HUD has a legal obligation to address housing segregation problems. While HUD's decision to eliminate the rule will force the plaintiffs to amend some details in the complaint, the lawsuit will continue forward.

Ben Carson subject of national lawsuit

Michigan residents may have heard about a lawsuit against Ben Carson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. The suit was filed because HUD had announced that it would delay implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. It was designed to prevent segregation when looking for housing. New York state recently announced that it was going to take part in the national suit filed by fair housing advocates.

Ben Carson wrote in 2015 that the rule was nothing more than "failed socialism." Combined with other statements that he has made, there is a belief that he intends to undermine the rule by delaying its implementation. New York City has already announced that it will create its own fair housing rules to ensure that as many people as possible find suitable spaces to rent or buy.

HUD only processes fraction of discrimination complaints

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, or NFHA, there were 1,311 housing discrimination complaints processed in 2017. That was about 5 percent of the 28,843 complaints received that year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. State and local agencies that were funded by HUD processed another 6,896 during that same year.

During that time period, 71 percent of complaints made were processed by private or non-profit groups. The NFHA report points out that the number of complaints processed went down despite the number of complaints increasing between 2016 and 2017. The most common types of complaints included those related to race and disability. The CEO of the NFHA said that the Fair Housing Act has not yet been fully enforced and that allowing racism and discrimination to thrive is holding society back.

Facebook under investigation by HUD

Michigan residents may have heard that Facebook is being investigated for possibly violating fair housing laws. An investigation began after a ProPublica report issued in 2016 claimed that the company's advertising system allowed advertisers to target certain groups at the exclusion of others. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 forbids housing discrimination based on race or other protected attributes.

In November 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dropped its investigation into the matter. However, HUD Secretary Ben Carson has decided to reopen the case, and he says that it was always the plan to continue looking into the matter. Time constraints were cited as the reason why the investigation originally ended. A statement from Facebook claimed that its ad policies didn't allow discrimination to take place. The statement also said that discrimination went against the company's values.

Why housing discrimination is stilll a problem

The Fair Housing Rights Act of 1968 made it easier for people of color to gain access to available homes and apartments. However, Michigan residents of color may find that they still struggle to be treated equally when it comes to finding housing. It is a remnant of ideas that began after slavery ended and the country came back together as one.

In the 1930s and 1940s, neighborhoods where African-Americans lived would be shaded as red to signify that they were hazardous to be in. These are areas where banks would refuse to lend or would leave entirely, and insurance companies and other businesses are also non-existent in areas that were once labeled as a hazard to occupy. One way to put a stop to discriminatory housing practices is to report them. Of an estimated 4 million violations that occur in America each year, only 29,000 are reported.

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