City to Fund Expanded Legal Services to Combat Housing Discrimination
PORTLAND, OR (November 20, 2018) – Findings from the latest Fair Housing audit, released today, revealed that in nearly one in four cases, leasing agents had provided adverse differential treatment to prospective renters based on their race or national origin.
The City of Portland contracts annually with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) to conduct random anonymous testing of housing providers to identify potential illegal discrimination as well as other patterns or issues in the city’s rental market. Results are analyzed to identify market trends of concern, areas to target education efforts and, where there is sufficient evidence, to conduct enforcement of Fair Housing violations.
However, this year’s report also cites challenges to successful enforcement of Fair Housing law, including the difficulty of obtaining the services of a private attorney and a lack of funding for enforcement at the state and city level.
To support increased enforcement efforts, the Portland Housing Bureau is releasing a solicitation making up to $200,000 available for one or more community-based organizations to provide a range of renter services for historically underserved communities living in Multnomah County, with an emphasis on direct legal services to enforce Fair Housing and landlord tenant law.
"We want to make sure Portland continues to address these issues as we focus our resources on some of our most vulnerable citizens, realizing there is a lot more work to be done,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Between March 2016 and February 2018, FHCO conducted 45 initial tests of rental properties within the City of Portland. Of these tests, 16 were either positive or inconclusive for adverse differential treatment of a protected class tester and warranted further testing. The 13 total positive tests (including retests) showed evidence that differing information about rental terms and conditions, rent prices, move-in specials, deposits, application fees, and screening criteria had been provided that favored the comparative tester over the protected class tester. Testing also showed that agents continued to make statements that could either discourage protected class testers from renting or applying or encourage comparative testers to rent or apply.
"Despite the fact that the Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago, many members of our community continue to experience discrimination and differential treatment in the housing market,” said Housing Bureau Director Shannon Callahan. “As we address the challenges in our community of displacement and housing affordability, it’s critical to ensure that Portlanders are treated equally when they are applying for housing and have the same access to opportunity, regardless of their race, national origin, color, religion, sex, family status, or disability.”