LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Several Lancaster and York County organizations are coming together to discuss fair housing barriers and progress in honor of Fair Housing Month.
Fair housing seeks to prevent discrimination based on factors like race, religion, gender, national origin, disability or familial status when individuals look to rent, purchase or acquire loans for housing. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 first codified this practice into national law and has been updated occasionally since then to identify more protected classes.
The Fair Housing Act prohibited discriminatory practices, but there are still a number of barriers to fair housing that persist. Brittany Mellinger, director of the Housing Equality and Equity Institute at Tenfold (formerly LHOP and Tabor) says, “There are still a number of barriers that happen behind the scenes, so folks might not realize it.”
Mellinger says individuals may be steered towards a certain type of housing because of their family structure or their national origin. They may not have the same access to financing. They may not receive the same home repairs as their neighbors. Or their requests for disability accommodations may not be met. “These are all things that we hear calls about through our office,” Mellinger says.
COVID-19 further exacerbated housing challenges faced disproportionately by people of color and other protected classes. Mellinger notes that the economic impact of the pandemic was felt especially by people of color, older adults and individuals with disabilities.
National and state agencies have stepped in to address housing challenges during the pandemic, and Tenfold and other organizations got to work helping people understand how to access government funding and assistance.
Both related and unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, Mellinger says a lack of knowledge is currently another major barrier to fair housing. That’s where Tenfold comes in: the organization works to educate tenants/home buyers and landlords about their rights and responsibilities.
As part of this mission, Mellinger will be participating in the virtual 2021 Fair Housing Forum on Wednesday along with representatives from the human relations commissions for Pennsylvania, Lancaster City and the city of York.
The forum will focus on emerging housing needs in the area, barriers to fair housing and steps that communities can take to address fair housing issues. Mellinger hopes participants will come away from the forum with “increased knowledge of their rights as well as just a better understanding of the housing situation right now.”
The Fair Housing Forum takes place at 5 p.m. on April 21. Participants can register for the event here.
“We know how central housing is to having a stable, thriving community,” Mellinger says. Stable housing plays a role in individuals’ ability to maintain health, employment and education among other things. “That’s why we’re so passionate about making sure that everyone has this access to housing that’s appropriate for their household in the area that they choose to live,” explains Mellinger.
To preserve and remove barriers to fair housing, Mellinger says education is important, as is “working with our local leaders, our municipal officials, ensuring that none of our policies are having any kind of disparate impact on protected classes and keeping them from having their housing choice.”