Fair housing summit July 20

With representation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development coming to Marietta next week, the city’s fair housing board is looking for confirmations of attendance.

They’re putting on a full-day summit at Washington State Community College July 20 to not only provide guidance and education, but gather questions to answer in a fully produced guidebook.

“We have promises and some confirmations from residents in each of the four wards and excellent support from both the (Marietta) Board of Realtors and from the (Southeast Ohio Legal Services). We are ready to go now,” said Felix Burrows, who’s leading the charge from the fair housing board.

The city’s fair housing board handles complaints and concerns of equal opportunity housing, under federal laws. But Burrows said he hopes to prove Marietta a model fair housing city by first starting on the same page with what the requirements are by law.

Kevin Kravitz, equal opportunity specialist from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be the keynote speaker for the event, but will also be present to answer questions and gather additional concerns to report back to the fair housing board with HUD’s answers.

“I’ll first give a little bit of the history of how fair housing took shape, even 50 years after the Fair Housing Act, we’re still fighting for some of the same things today,” said Kravitz. “And then I’ll give a general overview of what we’d like to see of a HUD-grantee community implementing a fair housing program.”

Federal dollars, like the Community Development Block Grant monies the city gets, depend on compliance with resident-driven spending and the protection from housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and/or national origin.

“Fair housing is very literal,” said Burrows. “It’s backed up by a set of laws and regulations. What we’re trying to do is say ‘let’s forget what you heard’ and instead come to educate together what the rules are so we’re all on the same page.”

Kravitz similarly said fair housing is founded on every citizen having equal opportunity to live where they want without the threat of discrimination.

“Discrimination comes in many forms. Outright denial to house based upon those protected classes are less common,” he said. “But there are more subtle ways though like offering different terms and conditions for tenants, even having policies within public housing that disproportionately impact minorities. A lot of what we see today is disability discrimination with refusal for reasonable accommodation.”

Kravitz said he hopes those in attendance, of which all are welcome, come away from the summit with similar takeaways.

“Folks who work for an entity who receives funding will hopefully be rejuvenated but also have concrete ideas for how to follow through with successful fair housing programs,” he said. “And for residents and property owners (it will help them with) knowing what to look for in terms of resources and what can be implemented to become a model community.”