Change in Disparate Impact Rule Would Jeopardize Housing Security for Most Vulnerable Citizens

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center and other local fair housing groups throughout the nation have seen an increase in the number of people of color who have contacted the Center because they have been denied housing as the result of a criminal record.  This is not surprising since in Connecticut, African Americans are incarcerated at 9.4 times the rate of whites and Latinos are incarcerated at 3.9 times the rate of whites. African Americans comprise 41.6% of Connecticut’s prison population but only 9.7% of the total population.  Latinos comprise 26.2% of the prison population but only 14.7% of the overall population.[1]  As a result, people of color are denied housing more often than people who are white because of their criminal records.  The proliferation of tenant screening companies which gather data from many sources and provide them to landlords mean that more and more people with criminal records are being denied housing, not because they pose a threat to the safety of others today, but for behavior that in many cases is decades old.  A recent review of tenant selection policies in Fairfield County, Connecticut reveals that 78% of the units have rules that disqualify individuals with a criminal record.  Because of the disparity in conviction records in Connecticut and throughout the country, people of color are limited in their choice of where to live.

The disparate impact rule recognizes the inherent unfairness in limiting the housing choices for people of color based on a rule that sweeps too broadly.  One of the Center’s clients who is Latino was recently denied housing for an arrest for a misdemeanor that was eventually dismissed.  The client is now severely disabled and unable to move or act on his own, yet his criminal history prevented him from moving out of a nursing home and in with his mother for more than a year.  By using the disparate impact rule to challenge the use of criminal records, the Center has assisted this client, and many others, in obtaining housing that meets their needs without increasing the threat to the health or safety of other tenants. There is no need to weaken a regulation that is working to obtain housing for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

[1] “State-by-State Data.” The Sentencing Project. Accessed Feb. 6, 2019. https://www.sentencingproject.org

Hartford Shelter Unlawfully Ejects an Individual with Disabilities from Shelter

 

 

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 15, 2019

Contacts: Greg Kirschner, Legal Director, greg@ctfairhousing.org or (860) 263 – 0724

Erin Kemple, Executive Director, erin@ctfairhousing.org or (860) 263 – 0723

 

Hartford Shelter Unlawfully Ejects an Individual with Disabilities from Shelter

South Park Inn claims that it caused former resident no harm when it forced him to sleep on the streets during cold and snowy weather for more than a week.

South Park Inn, a Hartford shelter and social services provider, argues in a new court filing that it can’t be held liable for harm suffered from unlawfully kicking residents onto the street in the winter because its clients “come and go from the shelter” and “[w]hen not at the shelter” “are out in the streets” “or are seeking or utilizing other refuge of myriad forms.”

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center filed suit against South Park Inn in March after the shelter suddenly expelled Zhakim Williams.  South Park Inn did not follow the State regulations before having Mr. Williams removed. Mr. Williams is an individual with disabilities who had been a shelter resident for six months. The employee who expelled Mr. Williams called the police and told the dispatcher that that she was kicking him out because Mr. Williams had threatened to “take her to a housing meeting” over how she was treating him. South Park Inn refused to readmit Mr. Williams and he spent more than a week on the streets during cold and snowy weather.

In addition to claiming that it is not foreseeable that a person who was formerly homelessness might be harmed by being made homeless again – in other words, that homeless people are so used to being homeless that they can’t be harmed by South Park’s conduct – South Park Inn also argues that state regulations for shelters do not create an enforceable standard of care for the protection of residents and the state and federal fair housing laws do not apply to it.

Mr. Williams eventually found a bed at another shelter with the help of the Center and the State Department of Housing, and has since moved into a transitional apartment. “I don’t want anyone to lose their job but I want South Park Inn to do better, train its staff better and treat its residents better,” said Mr. Williams when asked why he was pursuing this case.

Greg Kirschner the Center’s Legal Director stated “People who experience homelessness are no less human and no more immune to suffering from cruel and indifferent treatment or from the cold, hunger, and discomfort that comes with living on the streets. That South Park Inn, an institution which should know better than anyone of these challenges, would argue it has no duties to the people it serves and that its residents lack the dignity we accord to others is deeply troubling.”

Center staff attorney David Lavery added “from our preliminary investigation we expect to uncover that South Park Inn has acted with callous disregard for the emergency shelter regulations, has abused the 9-1-1 system to support its unlawful conduct, and has failed to protect the civil rights of its residents.”

 

We’re Hiring an Education & Outreach Coordinator

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT
COMMUNITY EDUCATION & OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Position Details:
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center seeks an innovative, energetic, and experienced
Community Education and Outreach Coordinator. This position will work closely with all staff,
and will be primarily responsible for organizing community-based legal education projects that
train and empower residents to assert their fair housing rights, building and maintaining
relationships with key allies and partners across the state, disseminating information about fair
housing and the work of the Center, and developing and implementing strategies to ensure that
the Center’s work is responsive to the concerns of target communities.
Specific Responsibilities Include:
• Coordinating community education projects including the development, marketing, and
delivery of fair housing trainings for the general public, community organizations, social
service agencies that work with those protected by the fair housing laws, and other target
populations;
• Building and maintaining new and existing partnerships with organizations working on
issues facing our clients, including tenants’ associations, grassroots community groups,
social services providers, advocacy organizations, and others;
• Building coalitions with other organizations to advocate for racial and economic justice,
homeowners’ and renters’ rights, disability rights, LGBTQIA+ equality, and other
transformative objectives;
• Attending community meetings and other public events to build relationships, raise the
Center’s profile and gather information about issues that may have fair housing implications;
• Soliciting input and feedback from community members, partner organizations, and former
clients to inform the Center’s work;
• Expanding the audience for the Center’s written materials;
• Seeking new ways to coordinate outreach and education between all staff members and
engage other staff in outreach and education efforts;
• Taking on other duties and responsibilities as assigned by the Executive Director.

Qualifications:
• Either a BA degree and 2 years of experience in community outreach, advocacy, training,
education, community organizing, or related field OR, AA degree, and 4 years of directly
related experience;
• Exceptional interpersonal skills; proven ability to cultivate relationships with and establish
networks among a diverse set of stakeholders, including clients, partner organizations,
community groups, etc.;
• Excellent verbal and written communication skills; public speaking/training experience
strongly preferred;
• Demonstrated interest in and passion for combating housing discrimination or other civil
rights violations, or related issues;
• Ability to work independently and take initiative;
• Ability to collaborate well with others;
• Proficient in Word and Excel; experience with other relevant software programs and with
managing social media accounts and/or websites helpful.
• Bi-lingual and/or bi-cultural individuals are strongly encouraged to apply.
• Must be willing and able to travel throughout CT for meetings, trainings, and other events
(mileage reimbursed).

Salary: Salary is highly competitive with other legal non-profits, with comprehensive benefit
package including exceptional health care, flex scheduling, and substantial paid leave.
$45,000 – $55,200 DOE.
Send resume and cover letter to: Letty Ortiz, Administrative Assistant at
letty@ctfairhousing.org. Please include a writing sample that reflects the applicant’s own work
without significant revision from others as well as the names and addresses of people who can
act as references. Please do not call.

Application Deadline: June 21, 2019
About Connecticut Fair Housing Center
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center is an equal opportunity employer.

We’re Hiring a Director of Operations

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center is a statewide nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to ensuring that all people, and principally those with scarce financial resources, have equal access to housing opportunities in Connecticut, free from discrimination.  To accomplish our mission, the Center provides legal services to the victims of housing discrimination and those at risk of home foreclosure; conducts education, training, and outreach on fair housing laws; works with state and local governments to ensure compliance with the fair housing laws; and advocates for policies that will improve access to housing.

Position Details:

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center seeks an innovative, energetic, and experienced person to join the Center’s management team.  This is a new position for the Center as it seeks to enhance its financial stability and expand its programmatic reach across the state.  Reporting to and working closely with the Executive Director, the Director will be primarily responsible for resource development, financial oversight and assisting the Executive Director in expanding the organization’s reach.

Specific Responsibilities Include:

  • Financial management including creating the organizational budget, budgets for grants, and monitoring grant expenditures;
  • Working with the Center’s CPA firm to monitor the Center’s financial position and propose measures to increase the Center’s financial stability.
  • Grant research, writing, and reporting;
  • Researching and applying for new income sources;
  • Collaborating with the Executive Director to review programmatic results of the organization and assist in developing and implementing strategies to expand the reach of the organization;
  • Overseeing execution the Center’s annual Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner (including solicitation of sponsorship, ad support, and auction donations, managing event communications, event logistics, etc.).

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree and 5 years of organizational management or financial management experience;
  • Alternatively, a bachelor’s degree plus a degree in accounting or nonprofit management and 2 years of experience;
  • Experience in grant writing, grant reporting, and grant research;
  • Development experience including event planning or other types of fundraising;
  • Interest in combating housing discrimination/civil rights violations or related issues;
  • Ability to work independently and take initiative to lead projects and collaborate with others;
  • Proficient in Word, expert in Excel;
  • Bi-lingual and/or bi-cultural individuals are strongly encouraged to apply.

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center is an equal opportunity employer.

Salary:  Salary is highly competitive with other legal non-profits, with comprehensive benefit package.  $70,000 – 80,000 DOE.

Send resume and cover letter to:  Letty Ortiz, Administrative Assistant at letty@ctfairhousing.org.  Please include a writing sample that reflects the applicant’s own work without significant revision from others as well as three references.  Please do not call.

Application Deadline:  May 10, 2019

Landmark Civil Rights Decision

Federal Court Holds Tenant-Screening Services Must Comply with Fair Housing Act

On Monday, March 25, 2019 we received a landmark civil rights decision in our case against CoreLogic. In April of 2018 we filed suit with the National Housing Law Project alleging CrimSafe (CoreLogic’s tenant screening tool) discriminated on the basis of race, national origin, and disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act, after our client, a disabled Latino man with no criminal convictions was disqualified from moving in with his mother. The court rejected CoreLogic’s motion to dismiss, and held that because companies like CoreLogic functionally make rental admission decisions for landlords that use their services, they must make those decisions in accordance with fair housing requirements.  As automated decisions by third-party screening companies are rapidly becoming the norm, this ruling has significant implications for landlords, renters and the entire screening industry.

Over the past year, staff at the Center have worked on the Commission of Equity and Opportunity’s Re-Entry Task to propose legislation to reduce the barriers to housing encountered by individuals returning home from incarceration. Throughout this session in the Connecticut General Assembly the Center has advocated alongside the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign for legislative reforms to tenant screening processes. We are honored to contribute this decision to the greater cannon of civil rights work that is being done by so many Fair Housing advocates in Connecticut.

Please help us celebrate this victory at our Fair Housing Month reception at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, April 3rd, 5 pm -7pm in the first floor atrium. https://www.ctfairhousing.org/registerlob/

Read the full press release that includes links to our complaint and the court’s decision. CFHC v. Corelogic MTD March 2019

A Historic Fair Lending Settlement for Connecticut Residents

The Center is delighted to announce the settlement of the fair lending complaint against Liberty Bank. This historic settlement will bring more than $16 million dollars in access to credit, homeownership subsidies, and economic development loans into low and moderate income communities of color. Many of these communities have not had access to credit for home buying or for home repairs. Furthermore, small businesses have not had access to credit or capital to spur economic development in these communities. Included in the settlement, Liberty Bank will open a loan production office in a neighborhood that continues to be underserved by banking institutions.

We look forward to working with our partners in the communities that will be affected by this settlement to ensure its success. We applaud Liberty’s commitment of time, energy and resources to a wide range of programs that will help promote financial education, expand opportunities for access to credit, and financially support programs developed to revitalize the housing market in communities in Connecticut that have traditionally had difficulty accessing credit.

Our congratulations to Center staff, Attorney David Lavery and Fair Housing Specialist Maria Cuerda who worked the case. We are grateful for their commitment to pursuing fair lending practices across Connecticut in all communities regardless of race or national origin.

See coverage in today’s Hartford Courant 

Read the full press release here. Press Release Final – CFHC v Liberty Bank

Coded Language in Response to Affordable Housing Bill

I was driving home and listening to our state legislators debate an additional amendment to H.B. 5045, An Act Establishing Accountability for Fair and Affordable Housing through Zoning Regulations, and what I heard made my heart sink.

The bill was proposed by the Fair Housing Working Group, a bipartisan group of legislators, housing and land use policy experts, fair housing advocates (including our Executive Director), and developers formed last fall under the leadership of CT Dept. of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein.

The bill’s original intention was to enforce current state law which requires every municipality to permit the development of multifamily housing to help integrate our neighborhoods. Currently, twenty municipalities in Connecticut do not permit any multifamily housing anywhere in their towns.  Arguably, many more have a written provision for inclusion, but often any proposed multifamily development never materializes past the planning stage, unable to get planning and zoning approval.  All of the towns without multifamily zones are disproportionately White.

The bill does not require towns to develop multifamily housing, and it does not even require any multifamily housing developed to be deed restricted as affordable. The bill only requires municipalities to include provisions for multifamily housing (either by right or special permitting process) – something that has already been a requirement for twenty-five years!

However, the law currently on the books has no real consequences for municipalities that choose not to comply.  The main difference in this new bill would have been the inclusion of an enforcement measure: towns who do not allow multifamily housing development could lose state discretionary funding.

Unfortunately, long before the vote, the debate was already focused on the removal of any such enforcement measure.

One representative described the bill as “draconian,” while another explained that the bill “would make it impossible to maintain the character of his town.” Given that multifamily housing is the least expensive way of promoting integration, it is clear that there is limited political will to move in this direction. The debate on H.B. 5054 suggests that some Connecticut leaders believe that making all 169 municipalities in our state available to everyone is a cruel directive to impose on the communities that have ignored the current law for twenty-five years. It suggests that rural areas should only be made available to individuals and families who have the economic means to purchase homes, and that the preferred “character” of these communities means excluding diversity.

I often say that we need to remember that people write policy, and that policy does not write itself.  People make decisions that determine how we develop Connecticut, and the debate among our state representatives was extremely disheartening, and clearly indicated why we remain an extremely segregated state.

Governor Malloy Proclaims April 11th “Fair Housing Day”

Executive Director Erin Kemple accepting “Fair Housing Day” Proclamation from Governor Malloy

In front of a small and dedicated bipartisan group of legislators, state officials, and fair housing advocates, Governor Dannel Malloy proclaimed today, April 11th, to be recognized as “Fair Housing Day” in the state of Connecticut. The proclamation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act.   Upon accepting the proclamation, the Center’s Executive Director, Erin Kemple, explained that the discriminatory practices and policies of our past continue today, pointing out that “high income families of color are denied mortgages at twice the rate of low income white families.”  She also noted that discriminatory practices in housing today are typically not as overt as they were at the time of the FHA’s passage, but are now often cloaked in different dress. 

 

The Governor answered questions from the press about HB 5045, the bill he proposed this year that would promote housing choice and ensure local accountability by attaching municipalities’ access to discretionary funds to their compliance with fair housing and inclusionary zoning regulations.  Some reporters questioned whether attaching zoning to discretionary funding is going to be a “hard sell” for lawmakers. Governor Malloy explained that municipalities in Connecticut have had fifty years to do the right thing, and the requirements of C.G.S. 8-2 have been in place for 27 years. It is time for communities to follow the requirements. The Center provided written testimony in support of H.B. 5045.

 

Fifty years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Connecticut remains one the most segregated states in our country. Ending housing segregation and enforcing the Fair Housing Act is the work we are all proud to do at the Center. Today reminds us all that there is still so much work to do.

 

Read the Governor’s press release about today’s event here.

New Display at the Capitol Highlights Fair Housing Milestones

Posters about Fair Housing on the wall at the Legislative Office Building

Every April, in honor of Fair Housing Month, the Center curates a display about fair housing for Connecticut’s Legislative Office Building to educate legislators, staff, and the many advocates, students, and visitors who pass through the Capitol buildings on a daily basis.

 

 

Because 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we decided that this year’s display would focus on the significance of this seminal piece of legislation, highlighting the events that led to its passage as well as some events that have occurred since Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law back on April 11, 1968.  We created a timeline covering 100 years of history to explain how policies and seminal court decisions created and maintain the segregated neighborhoods we see across Connecticut today.

 

For example, you may know that the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (better known as the G.I. Bill) helped to create the largest middle class in the nation’s history after World War II.  This legislation helped millions of returning veterans attend college and buy homes, building wealth that would be passed down to future generations.

Posters about fair housing history at the Legislative Office Building concourse

However, many people don’t realize that African-American veterans were left out of the bill’s most powerful benefits.  While White veterans took advantage of new low-interest mortgage loans to buy homes in the growing suburbs, many Black veterans were unable to obtain mortgages because banks wouldn’t lend to them or underwrite loans in non-white neighborhoods, a practice called redlining that was backed by the federal government.  In fact, banks even refused to lend to White families who wanted to buy homes in diverse neighborhoods.  Black veterans who could obtain mortgages were often blocked from buying in white neighborhoods because of racially restrictive covenants, racial steering by real estate agents, and other discriminatory practices.

The rest of the display highlights similar policies, practices, and court cases that shaped neighborhoods in Connecticut and across the country – for better or for worse – all the way up to the present day.

 

Congratulations to our 2018 Student Poster Contest Finalists!

The display also includes a look at the future of fair housing from the finalists of our annual Fair Housing Poster Contest. Students in 6th – 12th grades from schools across Connecticut submitted artwork that reflected this year’s theme: Choice. Mobility. Equity.  Their artwork is fantastic!   This year’s finalists are:6 colorful posters, finalists in the Fair Housing poster contest, hanging on a wall in the Legislative Office Building

Joe Barberi, Norwich Technical High School

Ashley Edmund, Norwich Technical High School

Dewlys Maldondo, Hartford Trinity College Academy

Outdam Nuon, Norwich Technical High School

Marysabel Rivera, Connecticut River Academy

Yeji Yang, Northwest Catholic High School

 

The winners will be announced at the end of April.

The Center’s Fair Housing Month display can be viewed on the Lower Concourse between the Capitol and the LOB now through April 13th.  If you find yourself in Hartford, we encourage you to stop by and take a look!

Want more Fair Housing history?  Check out the National Fair Housing Alliance’s interactive 50th anniversary timeline of the Fair Housing Act.  Interested in what happened closer to home?  Find out about the Center’s Fair Housing Tour of Hartford!

 

An Accidental Jump into New London’s History

When I first met Laura Natusch, the Executive Director of New London Landmarks, I did not expect that agreeing to collaborate on a fair housing history project would literally take me all over the city of New London, Connecticut. We have done important (and fun) work

Flyer for educational event on New London's Lost Neighborhood, set for April 10th at 7pm at Mount Moriah Church in New London, CT.uncovering missing streets, and unearthing historic pictures and maps of this small Whaling City that rests on Long Island Sound.

In 1962, the City of New London passed a referendum to begin the Winthrop Cove Urban Renewal project. While some urban renewal projects are well documented and widely known, this specific slum removal plan is not. And because every untold story needs a voice, Laura and I went exploring to figure out how the built environment changed as a result of the Winthrop Cove Urban Renewal project, and how discrimination played a role.

1962 New London City Council meeting minutes

1962 New London City Council minutes.

The project found us deep in the dusty stacks of New London’s City Hall and reviewing months of microfilm at the City library. We have read old City Council minutes and walked the City to figure out exactly where the project took place and imagine what was lost. Volunteers and retired librarians have stepped in to help us, and every new finding feels kind of like the excitement of anticipating the next firework during a fourth of July display.

We can’t wait to share what we have learned and uncovered!

Please join the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, New London Landmarks, and our guest speaker Lonnie Braxton, former President of the NAACP New London Chapter, for a free educational event that will tell the story of how decades of discriminatory policies led to the divestment of one neighborhood, and how “urban renewal” removed it from the maps:

Discrimination, Urban Renewal, and New London’s Lost Neighborhood

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mount Moriah Church, 22 Moore Ave. New London, CT

7:00pm – 8:30pm

Refreshments from Washington Street Coffee House will be provided!

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