April 19, 2016
This is the 48th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which introduced federal enforcement mechanisms outlawing the refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Fair Housing Month is celebrated in April, which is one reason why Patric Morris, CODE Inc. executive director, and Lynn Hartley and Carlton Hamann, Legal Assistance of Western New York Inc., were invited to discuss the law during the Jamestown City Council Housing Committee meeting.
Morris said the Fair Housing Act basically covers all housing that isn’t owner-occupied or a duplex. The goal of the Fair Housing Act is a unitary housing market in which a person’s background, as opposed to financial resources, does not arbitrarily restrict access.
”You cannot prejudge someone is the intent of the Fair Housing law,” Morris said.
Morris discussed recently how he was involved in a case that was against the law. He said a woman tried to rent an apartment, but was told she couldn’t because she had a child. Morris said, without questions, that was against the law to not rent to someone just because they had a child
Other topics discussed included providing equipment for the disabled, the rights of those with criminal records, credit checks and laws concern service animals and comfort animals. An example of a service animal would be a seeing eyedog. An example of a comfort animal was given by Gregory Rabb, City Council president. He said there was a case of a veteran in the Buffalo area who was treated unfairly by a landlord because of his comfort animal. A comfort animal gives emotional support to its owner.
Morris said the city has a fair housing officer, Todd Peterson, who can help people who feel they have been discriminated against. He said people can also contact Legal Assistance of Western New York for Fair Housing Act advice.
The committee also discussed planning a community meeting about the Fair Housing Act so both landlords and tenants can learn about their rights.