City of Columbia hosts event to inform people about fair housing

Monday, April 23, 2012 | 9:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

COLUMBIA — The city hosted a public meeting Monday evening to inform people about fair housing in Columbia and ways to respond to discrimination.

A new rule was implemented March 5 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, giving members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community equal access to any programs funded by HUD or ensured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Tiana Alexander, a program analyst for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, informed those in attendance about the rule.

"They have the same access to apply for funds, and they don't have to answer questions based on marital status or sexual orientation," she said, adding that HUD recently sent out 9,000 same-sex couples to apply for rental and public housing to see if they would be discriminated against.

Speakers shared examples of housing discrimination that should cause tenants to file complaints, either with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or with the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Examples of discrimination

  • If a real estate agent fails to take a potential home buyer to a certain neighborhood because of his or her race, this is called "steering" and is illegal.
  • A landlord cannot deny a potential tenant based on race or raise the rent on somebody because of his or her race if rent is not raised for everybody else.
  • It is against the law for a landlord to fail to provide wheelchair ramps and other necessary accommodations for people with disabilities.
  • Landlords cannot deny tenants service animals, as they are not considered pets. Service animals can be all kinds of animals, not just dogs.
  • Discrimination because of familial status is illegal.

Disability complaints have recently passed race complaints as the biggest cause of discrimination in housing, Alexander said.

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