Protecting Fair Housing in 2020
Dear friends and partners, This year has brought enormous changes to the world of fair housing, as debates about the causes—and even the existence—of discrimination took the national spotlight. In July, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revoked the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, undermining efforts to eliminate discrimination in housing and development. They allowed emergency homeless shelters to refuse to serve transgender people in accordance with their gender identity. In October, they limited disparate impact protections, which tackle rules and policies that seem neutral but have a discriminatory effect. Each of these changes alone had deep implications for fair housing in the U.S. Together in such rapid succession, they truly rocked the world of fair housing. However, these challenges also energized new advocacy against injustice. Groups like the National Association of Realtors and Mortgage Bankers Association, and banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, publicly acknowledged the history of entrenched systemic racism in industry and government, as well as the devastating impacts of redlining in Black and Latinx communities on everything from homelessness, health impacts, and vast wealth gaps. This widespread acknowledgement is unprecedented. Without action, however, it will not be enough. Change has also come to the laws that protect tenants and landlords in issues of rent and eviction. Many local governments passed emergency eviction protections. In September, AB 3088 established a clear pathway for California tenants who could not pay all of their rent to stay housed, while ensuring landlords could continue to rely on a stable income. This month, AB 15 was introduced in the State Legislature to extend these protections beyond their current expiration date of January 31, 2021. Amid all these changes, the Housing Rights Center not only continued to serve but also launched many critical new programs and services. In addition to new eviction defense and rental assistance programs, we are proud to be a partner in Stay Housed LA, an online resource hub where tenants can connect with services, information, and legal aid. Our new education and outreach initiative, funded by HUD, highlights the urgent problem of sexual harassment in housing. With the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), we are investigating discrimination based on source of income and protecting the rights of Section 8 voucher holders throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We also launched a robust weekly line-up of free online services, including housing rights workshops and open clinic hours for counseling appointments. And hundreds of people tuned into our webinars to learn about topics like service animals, LGBTQ+ rights, sexual harassment, and the rights of families with children. As 2020 comes to a close, we are reflecting on the lessons we have learned so that we can continue to serve those who need it most. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but we are looking ahead to see what a new federal administration, led by President-elect Joe Biden and HUD Secretary appointee Marcia Fudge, may mean for the fight for fair housing. In April 2021, HRC will celebrate Fair Housing Month by hosting our annual Housing Rights Summit online, where we'll collaborate on new strategies to build the more just, compassionate world we all dream of. We hope you'll join us there after a safe and happy New Year.
Chancela Al-Mansour Executive Director Housing Rights Center