April 12, 2018

Fair Housing Month Highlights Room for Improvements

April is Fair Housing Month. The Fair Housing Act is 50 years old in 2018.

Fifty years ago, the Fair Housing Act became the law of the land, but there are still barriers to overcome.

The act has made it illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of housing. The act relates to race, religion, sex, family status, handicap and national origin.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the measure, he stated, “…fair housing for all human beings who live in this country is now a part of the American way of life.” (Here’s a snippet.) A progressive measure at the time and still meaningful today, but there is more work to do. Especially as it relates to previous housing challenges.

Evictions Make Poor Roommates

More often than not, My Sister’s Place residents have an eviction on their rental history. When basic survival is in question, it is hard to focus on things like credit worthiness.

Once they move into the My Sister’s Place program, we work with them to work on employment stability, savings, budgeting and basic financial literacy.

After completing our program many find it challenging to find safe housing they can afford. Even with a nest egg of savings in hand. The blemish of a prior eviction, even one that is years old, makes the housing search even more complicated.

Once they are able to locate a landlord that is willing to work with their troubled rental history, they often have to overcompensate for their prior eviction by paying huge deposits and move-in fees. These costs sometimes equal two or three times the rental rate. A high price to pay for low-wage earners.

Fair Housing 2.0

Everyone loves a redemption story, but it is hard to overcome without a little grace from others. That’s what we are asking for on behalf of our residents and others in need of a second chance – grace. We implore landlords to look at the person before them today.  Consider the most relevant factors- savings, stable employment, eager for a fresh start. Be the catalyst that helps a family move themselves out of poverty.

Maybe instead of a 12-month lease, consider a 6-month lease with an option to renew for the additional six months if all goes well.

Consider making it easier for a tenant to break a lease if they are in a financial bind.

Maybe don’t put credit-impaired tenants further behind the eight ball by charging deposits that are greater than the first month’s rent. The more money they are able to keep in their pockets, the more likely they will be able to meet their rent obligations.

New solutions to old problems will require thinking outside of the box. Won’t you join us?

Resources About Fair Housing and Evictions

Facing eviction? Know your rights.

Want to know more about the history of the Fair Housing Act?

Are you homeless and think My Sister’s Place may be the program for you?


April 12, 2018