FAIR HOUSING MONTH -April 2014
This year marks the 46th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted on April 11, 1968. The month of April is nationally recognized as Fair Housing Month and it is used as a time to educate the public about their rights regarding housing discrimination and acknowledge the diligent work being done to assess and combat unfair housing practices across the nation.
The 2014 Broward County Annual Fair Housing Month Celebration “Answering the Call,” was held on Friday, April 25, at Signature Grand in Davie, Florida. The event was a collaborative effort between Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence (HOPE), Inc., Broward County Housing Finance and Com-munity Development Division (BCHFCD) and |Broward County Human Rights Division (BCHRD).
Keenya Robertson, Esq., the President and CEO of HOPE, Inc., served as the master of ceremonies and welcomed a variety of speakers who addressed fair housing laws and issues.
Opening remarks were made by Monica Cepero, Broward County Assistant County Administrator, who provided a summary of the history of the Fair Housing Act and concluded with “Fair Housing is not an option, it’s the law.”
Ms. Robertson showed a 30 minute documentary entitled “Matter of Place,” a video focused on fair housing, which highlighted three New Yorker’s personal struggles with housing discrimination. Video: http://vimeo.com/77785957
After the video Ms. Robertson provided a comprehensive review of HUD’s new online Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) tools.
Danny Howe, Vice President and Fair Lending Initiative Director of HOPE, Inc., spoke about the perils of unscrupulous lenders both locally and on a national scale. Mr. Howe emphasized the importance of lenders meticulously verifying borrowers’ income, assets and debt, substantiating that they genuinely have the ability to pay back loans.
Damaris Henlon, Esq., Assistant Broward County Attorney, explained Ordinance Sec. 16 1/2—35.6, enacted by the Board of County Commissioners, which requires written notice that specifically states the reason(s) for rejection of an applicant to purchase or rent a dwelling.
The morning session concluded with a panel discussion about residents’ rights to possess emotional support animals within their residency. The panel consisted of two experts, Melissa Stegman, Esq. an attorney with HUD Office of General Counsel Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and Aaron Levine the Equal Opportunity Specialist for HUD Office of General Counsel, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. They presented the topic “Reasonable Accommodation under the Fair Housing Act” accompanied by distributed printed information and addressed the Fair Housing laws that protect owners and renters rights to have an assistance animal live with them in their residence.
Ms. Robertson showed a video from the Broward County Board of Commissioners public hearings that displayed the County’s participation in furthering Fair Housing. Ms. Robertson then presented “Answering the Call” awards to both Commissioner Lois Wexler and Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness to honor their participation in Broward County's fair housing policymaking.
Armando Fana, Director of HUD’s Miami Field Office, introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Mr. Cardell Cooper, who is the Executive Director of the National Community Development Association and had previously served as HUD's Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development. Mr. Cooper shared his housing related experiences both personally and as a member of government and thanked all attendees for their role in promoting fair housing laws and encouraged the audience to seek ways to help the plight of housing discrimination.
Event artwork by Niki Lopez
Left to right: Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness,
Keenya Robertson and Commissioner Lois Wexler
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, physical handicap, and number and presence of children. The Act applies to the sale and rental of housing and mortgage lending.
HUD’s Fair Housing booklet: http://1.usa.gov/1h51DCY
HUD outreach tools: http://1.usa.gov/SZi12e
Violation of Rights Complaints:
Housing Discrimination Complaint Form: http://1.usa.gov/QgI83k
Or contact a HUD office: http://1.usa.gov/1o2AOa3
Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence (HOPE): www.hopefhc.com