Archive for the ‘Fair Housing’ Category

Zip Codes Matter

Posted on April 11th, 2014 by

By Melvina Ford, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center

It is a simple fact that zip codes matter. When my now four-year-old son was about to be born, I drove a bit of distance to deliver him at a hospital that I handpicked for its high quality medical care. Shortly after I had my son, I had to take a trip in the back of an ambulance to a much closer hospital in my own neighborhood that I was not particularly fond of.  Today, both my son and I are wonderfully healthy, but we have since moved to a neighborhood with a hospital that I know provides superior medical care (which is convenient, as my son believes that a super hero costume actually gives him the power to fly).

The point of this story is that zip codes matter.  They matter to the quality of health care you receive. They matter to the education your children get.  They even matter when it comes to quality of the produce you buy at the local grocery store.

A group shot of representatives from the Fairfax County Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and the Equal Rights Center.

A group shot of representatives from the Fairfax County Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and the Equal Rights Center.

Today marks the 46th anniversary of passage of the Fair Housing Act. This landmark piece of legislation ensures the right of any individual to choose where they live, free from unlawful discriminatory treatment. It challenges the patterns of segregation and poverty that so often result from housing discrimination, and it highlights our responsibility —as both advocates and professionals that deal in housing issues every day—to ensure that we are fostering diverse, healthy and inclusive communities. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Corporate Partnerships and Training, Fair Housing
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Newest ERC Report Finds Evidence of Housing Discrimination against Older Same-Sex Couples

Posted on February 25th, 2014 by

CoverIn the past several weeks, some state legislatures across the county have been working to enact legislation that would have the effect of giving businesses, and potentially even police and firefighters, the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, these actions are just another demonstration of the discrimination that same-sex couples encounter every day.

Today, the ERC unveiled the results of a 10-state testing investigation documenting adverse and differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities.

The report, titled “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” documents the results of 200 matched-pair telephone tests conducted by the ERC in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. In 96 of the 200 tests (48 percent), a tester inquiring about housing in a senior living facility for a same-sex couple experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment, as compared to a counterpart tester inquiring about the same housing for an opposite-sex couple.

“This investigation is the first of its kind to focus on providing objective, quantitative data specific to older same-sex couples seeking senior housing,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “Older LGBT individuals face many unique challenges when seeking housing at senior-living facilities, and discriminatory practices cause further, undue hardship in the lives of LGBT seniors at a time when financial resources are often becoming more limited.” (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, LBGT Rights
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ERC Releases Sexual Harassment and Fair Housing Toolkit

Posted on February 3rd, 2014 by

CoverThe ERC is proud to announce the publication of our newest self-advocacy toolkit, which adds to the ever-growing list of ERC resources available to those who face discrimination in housing. The Sexual Harassment and Fair Housing Toolkit addresses the issues that many individuals face regarding unwanted sexual harassment in a housing environment.

“This toolkit is a valuable resource for any individual who faces, or has faced, unlawful and unwanted sexual harassment in a rental housing setting,” said Melissa Rothstein, Deputy Director of the ERC. “This toolkit clearly and concisely advises tenants the protections they have against sexual harassment under the Fair Housing Act, and provides the tools for individuals to respond when they experience this type of discrimination.”

Sexual harassment – such as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature – is against the law and considered a form of sex discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits sex discrimination that impacts the terms or conditions of housing, is used as a basis for housing decisions, or otherwise has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with housing rights, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Many states, counties, and cities have laws with additional protections against sex discrimination and sexual harassment in housing.

To download a PDF of this report, click here.

To request a hard copy of the toolkit, send us an email at


*The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication.  Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing
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A Day of Remembrance

Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by

By Snehee Khandeshi, ERC Fair Housing Program Coordinator

Earlier this week, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events took place across the globe to memorialize the victims of hate crimes motivated by transphobia, and bring attention to the continued violence experienced by the transgender community.  On the fifteenth anniversary of TDOR, 238 individuals who  were killed because of their gender identity during the past year were memorialized.

Trans communities constantly face the threat of violent crimes.  The motivation and circumstances of violence perpetuated against transgender individuals is unclear, but it is clear that working to eliminate the everyday discrimination that trans people face in housing, employment, and in access to government resources is a necessary step toward reducing the threat of violence.

Though research regarding discrimination against the transgender community is scarce, in 2011 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality published a report, titled Injustice at Every Turn, which documents discrimination faced by transgender individuals.  With respect to housing, of the respondents to their national survey, 19 percent reported having been outright refused a home or apartment, and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. Furthermore, 19 percent reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. Many of those who tried to gain access to a homeless shelter were harassed by shelter staff or residents.  Almost a third were turned away from a shelter altogether and, alarmingly, 22 percent reported being sexually assaulted by residents or staff. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing, LBGT Rights
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ERC Receives Generous Support from Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Posted on September 26th, 2013 by

The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has been awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP).

“The ERC is honored to be a recipient of these grants, and to continue to partner with from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in promoting equal housing opportunity for all,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “With these funds, we will continue to provide education and outreach, testing, and advocacy to protect and promote fair housing, and will be able to further grow this work to reach the most vulnerable advance the ERC’s and HUD’s mission of affirmatively furthering fair housing, and will continue to work collaboratively to advance civil rights for both individuals and whole communities.”

The ERC is the recipient of a three-year Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant, which will support testing investigations and intake complaint assistance throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  The ERC will receive $325,000 for the first year of the grant, with future funding contingent upon HUD’s budget. The ERC will also receive a one-year $125,000 Education and Outreach Initiative (EOI) grant, which will support the dissemination of fair housing information to diverse communities through workshops, trainings, publications, online messaging, and other communications. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, Government Services, Testing
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Chasing the Dream

Posted on August 28th, 2013 by

Lincoln MemorialBy Grant Beck, ERC Communications and Outreach Associate

It’s a cloudless, sweltering day in August. Washington, D.C., is buzzing. The concrete of the Lincoln Memorial glows in the blistering sunshine. The Reflecting Pool is transformed from the image of a solitary monolith into a diverse sea of faces. More than one hundred thousand people from all walks of life have gathered at the feet of The Great Emancipator. Some wear buttons and pins. Many carry signs. All have a message. The mass is frustrated. Frustrated at a distinct lack of equality in this “land of opportunity.” Frustrated at a lack of jobs in their neighborhoods and cities. Frustrated at violence within, and against, their communities. Frustrated at the seemingly endless economic gap that separates them from the wealthiest Americans. They have come here to find a voice. A unified voice that speaks to the issues they face every day. A voice that assures them that they too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Except, the year is not 1963. The year is 2013, fifty years after Dr. King boldly told the country of his dream for America. A dream that, it seems for now, remains just that. A dream.

On August 24, the National Action Network (NAN) led a rally and march from the Lincoln Memorial in honor of the famous March on Washington that took place in the nation’s capital 50 years ago. NAN collaborated with a highly diverse selection of organizations and advocacy groups for the daylong event, which included high-profile speakers, performers and civil rights icons, and concluded in a mass exodus from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

More than 100,000 people traveled to the nation’s capital to commemorate the anniversary. From families with small children, to individuals who attended the original march in 1963, people came with hand-made signs, folding chairs, blankets and banners to celebrate one of the seminal events of the 20th century. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing, Government Services, Immigrant Rights, LBGT Rights
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Investigation Uncovers Housing Discrimination against Latinos in Three Major Metropolitan Areas

Posted on July 19th, 2013 by

Report CoverAs congressional leaders in Washington debate legislation to reform the plagued U.S. immigration system, discrimination against immigrants and Latino citizens continues to prevail on the home front.

Today, the ERC and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) —the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—unveiled the results of a testing-based investigation documenting adverse and differential treatment against prospective Latino renters and homebuyers in Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas.

The report, titled “Puertas Cerradas: Housing Barriers for Hispanics,” documents the results of 225 matched-pair tests conducted by the ERC in the three major U.S. metropolitan areas. In 95 of the 225 tests conducted (42 percent), the Latino tester experienced at least one form of adverse, differential treatment as compared to their counterpart white tester.

“While the FHA expressly prohibits discrimination based on national origin, this discrimination has not gone away, and in today’s highly charged political climate, it has gotten worse,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC.  “This report and its underlying testing clearly show that the Latino community continues to be targeted. It is critical that the community is informed about how to identify and report incidents of discrimination, and that [the community] knows that there are advocates, like the ERC, to help them maneuver through the process.”

Some of the differential treatment experienced by Latino testers included: (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, Immigrant Rights
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HUD Study Finds Subtle Discrimination in Housing Persists for Minority Applicants

Posted on June 13th, 2013 by

Report CoverOn Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its latest summary study, Housing Discrimination against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012. This study, a collaborative effort with the Urban Institute, is part of HUD’s efforts to monitor trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in housing through a series of nationwide paired-testing studies conducted every decade.

The study found that subtle housing discrimination based on race persists, even as “blatant door slamming,” observed in the first national paired-test study conducted in 1977, continues to decline.

“Just because discrimination has taken on a more subtle form, doesn’t make it any less damaging,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities.”

As the ERC has continually emphasized, an individual’s ability to obtain adequate and safe housing of their choice affects all aspects of daily life – employment and educational opportunities, proximity to friends and family, availability of public transportation, access to commercial and government services, and even safety. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, Government Services, Testing
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University housing or jail?

Posted on May 23rd, 2013 by

Service DogIn 2010, a University of Nebraska at Kearney student, Brittany Hamilton, requested a reasonable accommodation under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to allow her to keep Butch, a 4-pound miniature pinscher that was prescribed by her doctor to alleviate Brittany’s anxiety and depression, with her in university housing. The university denied the request, citing a “no pets” policy and a lack of documentation. Following this denial, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the university on Brittany’s behalf, claiming that the university violated the FHA’s requirement that a person with a disability be granted a reasonable accommodation if it has a sufficient nexus to the person’s disability.

As the law on reasonable accommodations is well established, the university argued that it was not bound by the FHA because university housing, which is “home” for more than 2,200 individuals in Kearney alone (more than 10,000 university-wide), was not housing but was more like a “jail.”   Last month, U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard ruled against the university, finding that university housing is covered by the FHA and that “…simply put, students live in university housing for a significant time period and while they do, they treat it like home.” (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Fair Housing
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Thank you.

Posted on May 3rd, 2013 by

Award presentation

Rabbi Bruce Kahn presents an award to retiring Board President James G. Macdonell. Both men were founding members of the ERC.

Thank you for making the Equal Rights Center’s 30th anniversary such a success. Thank you for being a valued partner. Thank you for being an advocate. Thank you for any role that you play in the daunting task of ending discrimination and advancing equality for ALL.

It is difficult to believe that a small local fair housing organization, founded by five inter-faith religious leaders from diverse backgrounds working out of a borrowed office, would become one of the most dynamic, multifaceted national civil rights organizations in the country.

Today, the ERC promotes equal opportunity in housing, employment, and access to public accommodations and government services while being an invaluable resource for many individuals, advocacy groups, government agencies, housing developers, architectural firms, restaurateurs, and other businesses and corporations. Reflecting the growth from the ERC’s founding,, our 30th anniversary brought together individuals and entities from all facets of the ERC’s current efforts.

The ERC’s success and our work are impossible without our members and our partners. You serve as the eyes and ears of the ERC, letting us know when and where discrimination is happening and being part of the proactive efforts to promote equal opportunity. With your help, the ERC now has 6,000 members in all 50 states, more than 300 civil rights testers, and programs dedicated to making a national impact advancing fair housing, fair employment, disability rights, immigrant rights, and LGBT rights. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Corporate Partnerships and Training, Disability Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing, Government Services, Immigrant Rights, LBGT Rights, Source of Income, Testing
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