Senate Republicans send letter to Attorney General, Avakian on Fair Housing

Senate Republicans in Oregon are calling for strict enforcement of Fair Housing Laws following evidence of racial discrimination in renting practices revealed by an audit put together by the City of Portland.

The audit by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon found that 32 out of 50 test interviews with landlords revealed different treatment for test applicants who were African-American or Latino. The audit was part of the city’s work to prepare its Analysis of Impediments report mandated by the federal government. It was the first such audit the city has commissioned.

In a strongly worded letter (Republican letter for Fair Housing) sent yesterday, state  Republicans in Oregon asked Attorney General John Kroger and Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian to begin aggressively investigating and prosecuting violations of Fair Housing Laws.

“Oregon was a trailblazer in the civil rights movement, adopting fair housing laws before it was a national trend,” said Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem) in the press release. “News of this prejudice in Portland is disturbing, and proof that the battle against racism must be waged aggressively today as it was in the 1960s”

Updated: You can read Avakian’s response here.

“For the last three years we have worked closely with Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI), and most of the cases around fair housing have been resolved,” says Moloy Good, the Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. “Unfortunately, currently the only funding BOLI gets to do fair housing work in Oregon is from the Federal Government. If the legislature really wants to see strong enforcement across the board than the state should find a way to fund BOLI concerning fair housing.”

“We’re going to be working with landlords and their associations and the advocacy community to do outreach and education,” Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish told Street Roots yesterday. “At the same time, we’re going to do some targeted enforcement of the law.”

Fish said that since the city received the audit back in February, he has been talking with various parties, including the Oregon Law Center and Attorney General John Kroger, about developing an approach to addressing the disparities. The violations exposed in the Fair Housing Council’s audit were to state and federal laws, and enforcement is triggered through an essentially complaint driven process, according to Fish. Fair housing complaints are not processed through the city, he said.

Fair Housing Council of Oregon also found housing discrimination taking place in Polk County in April.

By Israel Bayer

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