Each April, we celebrate the passage of the Fair Housing Act. The Act passed seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is one of his most important legacies.
By Michelle Rydz
Dr. King advocated for the passage of the Fair Housing Act, noting that decades of discriminatory policies and practices led to deep segregation in our communities throughout the country.
Both state and federal fair housing laws require housing-related transactions to be free of unlawful discrimination. Nearly all rentals, sales, lending, and insurance transactions related to housing are covered. Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, presence of children in the household, and physical or mental disability. North Dakota law prohibits housing discrimination based on all these federally-protected categories, plus age, marital status, and receipt of public assistance.
The Fair Housing Act has two goals: to end housing discrimination and to promote diverse, inclusive communities. The second goal is referred to as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), and it embodies our strongly-held American values of fair access and equal opportunity.
Diverse, inclusive communities with access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing are crucial to our nation’s prosperity. When fair housing laws are enforced, people have choices about where they live and aren’t relegated to neighborhoods of concentrated poverty or lower opportunity. They also have protections to ensure they can continue to live in and access their community without illegal discrimination.
High Plains Fair Housing Center is a statewide organization based in Grand Forks that works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunities. We assist people who believe that they are experiencing housing discrimination, we conduct investigation into potential housing discrimination and we provide community education to promote fair housing.
Discrimination still exists and we work hard to stop it. In the past year, High Plains Fair Housing Center’s compliant hotline took 132 calls about fair housing related issues, we directly assisted 85 clients through mediation and conciliation. We completed 105 test parts and assisted 18 clients in filing or referring their complaints to HUD or the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights. Most discrimination complaints are disability related (64%), race/color (14%), National Origin (9%) and Familial Status (8%).
In celebration of Fair Housing Month, there are free fair housing workshops throughout the state; Jamestown, Fargo and Grand Forks have declared April as Fair Housing Month andthere are fair housing displays at twenty-two libraries in North Dakota. For more information about any of these events, please visit our website at www.highplainsfhc.org or contact us at (701) 792-2878. If you have experienced discrimination while attempting to rent or purchase a home, please call our complaint line at 701-203-1077 or toll-free at 1-866-380-2738.