We have had a very busy and productive year. We investigated nearly 300 complaints of housing discrimination, stopped evictions and preserved tenancies in over 25 cases, achieved settlements that created over 12 lead safe units for children, provided 100 fair housing presentations to community groups and housing industry professionals. We worked to provide communication access and safety in housing for Deaf and Blind individuals, created wheelchair access and arranged transfers for the safety of victims of domestic violence and hate crimes.
Our 7th annual Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference in April was our most successful to date, providing 18 workshops on fair housing and civil rights topics to over 300 attendees during the day and a half long event. The conference has always been and continues to be free of charge and open to the public. In April, we joined other civil rights and community groups to form the coalition, Amherst Fair Housing Now! to advocate for fair and affordable housing in Amherst. We look forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2014 at our 2014 Fair Housing and Civil Rights conference and at special events in the five Western and Central Massachusetts counties that we serve.
8th Annual Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference.
The 2014 Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference will be held at the Springfield Marriott on April 10 and 11, 2014. This year we will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center. As always this event is free and open to the public.
Recent MFHC Case
Creating New Lead Safe Units
MFHC settled a case in January, 2013, on behalf of a woman who was denied housing for her and her children due to the presence of lead paint. The settlement required the property owner to pay the Complainant $6500; attend a fair housing training; obtain a lead inspection of the property and abate any lead hazards found by the inspection.
Fighting Discrimination Against Families with Children
MFHC settled two cases in February, 2014, brought against a father and son in Greenfield for discriminating against trained fair housing testers who identified themselves as having children under the age of six. Collectively, the individuals agreed to pay $10,000 to MFHC and to get lead inspections of their properties to determine the presence of lead paint.
Combatting systemic housing discrimination in Fall River On January 31, 2014, MFHC in partnership with a new fair housing organization, SouthCoast Fair Housing, filed a housing discrimination complaint against a Fall River real estate company, its brokers and several property owners. SouthCoast Fair Housing discovered that the Realtor maintained a website that showed whether properties listed for rent were de-leaded or accepted Section 8. MFHC’s testing investigation confirmed that the real estate agents were engaging in acts of housing discrimination against families with children. The real estate company’s extensive discriminatory acts created a discriminatory rental housing market in Bristol County and discouraged and deterred many qualified families from applying for housing they were otherwise eligible to rent. Our complaint seeks compensatory damages and affirmative remedies to counteract the discriminatory acts perpetrated by the real estate company.
The importance of maintaining adequate Section 8 payment standards in Amherst, Massachusetts
We are encouraged that the Amherst Housing Authority has decided not to lower the payment standard for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. This proposal would have caused the displacement of most Section 8 households currently residing in Amherst and increased the economic and racial segregation in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. This area is ranked number one in the nation for segregation between Latinos and Whites and 22nd in the nation for segregation between African Americans and Whites. Amherst is a high opportunity community, with good schools, free public transportation and a low crime rate. Maintaining affordable housing in Amherst is the best way to promote inclusion and diversity.
MFHC bids Farewell to Whitney Abel
MFHC Education and Outreach Coordinator, Whitney Abel has left MFHC to take on a new position at a nonprofit organization in Connecticut. Whitney had been with our organization for almost three years and she provided countless fair housing trainings to community groups and industry professionals. Whitney has also successfully represented clients and MFHC in fair housing cases, and used her amazing planning skills to organize our annual conference. We will miss her!
The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the cities of Springfield, Northampton and Pittsfield, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the United Way.