2013 Fair Housing Conference
NW Housing Search
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
As a recipient of CDBG and HOME Funds, Spokane County is required to develop programs that will “affirmatively further fair housing”. HUD, which allocates these and other funds, requires grant recipients to examine the local housing market and identify barriers to fair housing choice, and implement a plan to address any identified housing barriers for protected classes. The Analysis of Impediments (AI) and Fair Housing Plan for Spokane County were updated in October 2010 and adopted with Resolution No. 10-0910. They have been subsequently amended to address/remedy an impediment. An update was adopted with Resolution No. 11-0165, in March 2011. Upon submission to HUD, Spokane County was informed that the 9th Circuit Courts are now enforcing fair housing advertisement requirements on landlords who advertise using the internet. Previously an impediment in the AI, this shows progress for enforcement efforts at the national level. The AI will continue to be edited and updated as time allows. The AI addresses impediments discovered between 2003 and 2008. The next five year update is expected to be in 2015.
HUD newly released final rule, “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity,” became effective March 5, 2012. It applies to all McKinney-Vento-funded housing programs, as well as to other housing assisted or insured by HUD. The rule creates a new regulatory provision that generally prohibits considering a person’s marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity (a person’s internal sense of being male or female) in making homeless housing assistance available. As the nation’s housing agency, HUD’s goal is to ensure that our programs are carried out free from discrimination and are models for equal housing opportunity. Now lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are guaranteed equal access to our housing and shelters. CSHCD will update the AI and Fair Housing Plan in 2012 to reflect the new federal rule.
Fair Housing Complaints
An individual who believes they have been discriminated against may file a complaint with HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (OFHEO), Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) or Northwest Fair Housing Alliance (NWFHA). All of which are located in the city of Spokane’s downtown area. These agencies work together to track the status of complaints thereby eliminating duplication in reporting. Identifiers in the complaint data within this report have been removed after comparison of the lists provided by HUD and WSHRC.
Once a complaint is filed with one of these entities, the parties are encouraged to resolve the complaint by participating in negotiations designed to reach resolution and to protect the public’s interest. Nationally, and at the state level, a high percentage of complaints are closed by conciliation or predetermination settlement. If conciliation cannot be achieved there is a finding to determine if evidence of reasonable cause exists to support a violation of fair housing law. Some complaints will be closed with a “no cause” determination due to insufficient evidence to support a reasonable cause finding. If reasonable cause exists to support an allegation of housing discrimination, the case may be given an administrative hearing or be heard in superior or federal court.
Fair Housing Complaints Filed in Spokane County
According to the information compiled, 43 fair housing complaints were filed by Spokane County residents during 2003-2008. Of those; 17 were dismissed for no cause, one was withdrawn by the complainant; one complainant failed to cooperate, five were withdrawn for no benefit, nine ended in conciliation and settlement, one was withdrawn with settlement, four are pending, and five resulted in pre-finding settlement (PFS) agreements.
No complaints were reported related to real estate transactions for home buyers.
Fair Housing Complaints by Protected Class
The highest number of complaints is related to discrimination of disabled individuals in the area of reasonable accommodation. Those who filed complaints and then subsequently withdrew them offer some insight into areas Spokane County may want to focus on with education and outreach. For at least five complainants, no remedy would offer a benefit to them, so they dropped the complaint. This doesn’t mean the complaint was invalid. For example, if discrimination occurs in advertising and it is reported, the individual reporting the discrimination may not want to live in a home after being discriminated against, but still wants that landlord to follow the law.
Breakdown of complaint types:
- Disability related fair housing complaints amounted to 26 with a combination of issues identified for five of those complaints; four for retaliation, one for family status, one for sexual harassment.
- Seven retaliation complaints.
- Seven family status complaints.
- Race discrimination was identified in six complaints which were combined with retaliation (2) and sexual orientation (2).
- Sexual harassment was a complaint twice and was combined with color, disability and retaliation.
- Discrimination based on creed was reported one time and that complaint was combined with a racial complaint.
- There were six withdrawn (wd) complaints; one wd with a settlement agreement, five wd for no benefit to the complainant, one wd for failure to cooperate, one wd with no resolution.
Public Perception of Fair Housing
- Coalition of Responsible Disabled (CORD) and the NWFHA were interviewed to get a sense of the perceived fair housing issues in the Spokane Region.
- Disparate impacts presented by the National Fair Housing Alliance are included in the AI for consideration.
- Internet ads are allowed to discriminate against families with children, unlike printed media and may be causing confusion with the public perceptions of fair housing for all.
- Special needs housing; it is important to understand that behavior and illness symptoms themselves can cause difficulty retaining housing; further limiting a person’s choice of where they will live.
- Not in my back yard (NIMBY) perceptions of existing residents in neighborhoods where affordable housing is proposed.
The challenge will always be to make sure that everyone knows they have choices when determining where to set up a household. Fair housing posters have been produced in multiple languages and are provided to all Spokane County subrecipients to post in their location. Education remains the best tool we have in Spokane County for furthering fair housing and fair housing awareness.
Spokane County Fair Housing Activities
Spokane County and the Community Services, Housing, and Community Development Department endeavors to affirmatively further fair housing; some of the actions taken to affirmatively further fair housing are described below:
- On October 26, 2010 the updated Analysis of Impediments and Fair Housing Choice Plan were adopted by the BOCC with Resolution No. 10-0910. In March 2011 the AI was amended & updated with Resolution No. 11-0165, which struck out impediment number three and indicates the impediment was “remedied”. NWFHA clarified their role in fair housing complaints and reporting through meetings with Spokane County.
- On March 23, 2010, the Spokane Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) signed a proclamation declaring April 2010, “Fair Housing Month”. By doing so, the BOCC were reminded of the National Fair Housing Month and used the proclamation to remind the public of Spokane County’s dedication to furthering fair housing.
- Annually, all subrecipients of CDBG funds are required to certify that they will affirmatively further fair housing in their agreements with Spokane County.
- All CDBG and HOME subrecipients are provided fair housing posters in multiple languages and required to have them posted on site.
- The fair housing logo is required on documents, such as advertisements or newsletters, used by CDBG and HOME subrecipients or CSHCD.
- All fair housing complaints are referred to Northwest Fair Housing Alliance, HUD’s OFHEO, and the WSHRC who coordinate complaints, investigations and tests and assist people who have been discriminated against through mediation or the court system if just cause is found.
- Spokane County reviews all marketing plans, advertisements, tenant selection policies, rental applications for consistency with fair housing laws that are funded by HOME dollars.
- County Planning Department staff is invited to the annual fair housing spring training to keep them up to date on fair housing issues, disparate impacts of decisions, etc.
Spokane County Partners Assist in Fair Housing Educational Events
- Annual Fair Housing Training is provided to the community with a coordinated team of representatives from the Inland Northwest Landlord Association, Spokane Housing Authority (SHA), HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (OFHEO), Spokane County, the city of Spokane, Northwest Fair Housing Alliance, the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) and Coalition of Responsible Disabled (CORD).
- Fair Housing Week includes media advertisements (television and radio) that were created and paid for by Spokane Association of Realtors, city of Spokane and Spokane County. Bus wraps or posters are also used to promote Fair Housing Month.
- Spokane Housing Authority (SHA) and the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest partner to provide monthly and annual workshops about fair housing. Free training is available on a daily basis at SHA as landlords become housing providers for the local housing authority. The Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest also assists members as needed with information and resources related to fair housing as needed.
- “The Fig Tree” publishes an Annual Resource Directory which lists fair housing contacts in Spokane County.
- The Spokane Association of Realtors (SAR) holds fair housing trainings for its members throughout the year. The SAR Fair Housing Committee meets a minimum of four times per year to work with the community to eliminate any instances of unfair treatment of minorities in real estate transactions. Open houses are visited to be sure fair housing posters are posted in a visible location.
- The WSHRC has online trainings that are free. Visit www.hum.wa.gov or call 1-800-233-3247 for more information on free fair housing training.
Continuing education has been determined to be the most effective way to keep fair housing in the forefront of the community’s awareness. As newly elected officials take office it is important to educate them on Spokane County’s responsibility to further fair housing. Similarly, as changes occur in the jurisdictions within the county, new people need to be brought up to speed about fair housing laws and their responsibility to further fair housing along with Spokane County, HUD and our many partners.