Breaking News: Nick Fish releases names of fair housing test offenders

By Joanne Zuhl

Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish’s office has released the locations cited in a recent fair housing audit as testing positive for racial housing discrimination.

The announcement comes following a spate of reports on a survey that 32 out of 50 fair housing tests on Portland rental units showed evidence of discrimination against race and national origin. The survey was commissioned by Nick Fish’s office and conducted by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

“Today we are releasing the names of the landlords where there is a positive test,” Fish said. “We have previously notified the landlords that they were subject to an audit, and there was a positive test. Landlords have been notified.”

Fish said that next week his office will be forwarding all the information on the Fair Housing audit to the civil rights division of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, the lead state agency for processing HUD fair housing complaints, for them to initiate enforcement action.

“I made a commitment to our community,” Fish said. “First I expressed outrage at the results. Second, I said that we would pursue a comprehensive action plan that would include enforcement of the law. We are taking aggressive steps to hold landlords accountable for alleged violations of our fair housing law. In the weeks ahead, I will be announcing a bold plan to address discrimination in housing in our community. I will be the first housing commissioner who has framed housing discrimination as a bureau priority, and we intend to take a number of very strong steps to end bias in rental housing.”

Fish would not go into details on the plan, saying that he preferred to release it as a complete package. “It will include many of the suggestions from key community stakeholders who have been working on this issue for about a year.” Fish said he expects to announce the plan around the week of June 6.

“We anticipate this will lead to enforcement actions against certain landlords, but this is going to be a multi-year struggle. There will be further testing. There will be changes in the law, and there will be other steps to take that we will not tolerate rental discrimination in rental housing.”

Among those companies noted in the report is Tigard-based Regency Management Inc., which has two locations on the list of discriminatory sites. It includes Nob Hill Apartments in Northwest Irving, and Terwilliger Terrace on Southwest Barbour. In both cases, the African-American testers were told move-in costs ranging between $1,400 and $2,100, compared to a Caucasian tester who was told move-in costs would be between $720 and $740.

However, Regency Management Inc. president John Winquist said managers are instructed not to give move-in costs because there are many variables that can determine the price, including the results of credit and background checks. Those checks are done by an independent company that is not informed of a person’s race or national origin when they make a recommendation on the security deposit, Winquist said.

“That’s an international place,” Winquist said, talking about Nob Hill Apartments. “We have students from all over the world.”

Nob Hill resident manager Daphne Koa, herself originally from Taiwan, said she normally tells people the security deposit could be one month to two months rent depend on the screening report. Additional costs could also include prorated rent depending on when in a month a person moves in.

Dennis Steinman is a leading attorney on fair housing issues in Oregon, and also represents the Fair Housing Council. Steinman says that regardless of whether the discrimination is based in ignorance or racism, it is considered intentional. “Each of us as citizens we are presumed to know the law. We are presumed to know that you cannot have different standards for people of color vs people who are white,” Steinman said. “Ignorance is not a defense.”

Cashauna Hill is the fair housing staff attorney for the Oregon Law Center and a member of the city’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Committee.

When the Fair Housing Council’s audit returned with a 67 percent rate of detected discrimination, many were surprised by the high numbers.

“I was not,” Hill said. “Folks who are engaged and involved in this work, on some level, in various forms, we’ve heard these stories. So the experiences that I’ve heard shared certainly line up with these numbers, unfortunately.”

Hill says the most common complaint the Oregon Law Center receives involves disability discrimination and a failure to accommodate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the bulk of discrimination that is occurring. It simply is one of the easiest violations for a tenant or potential renter to detect, Hill says. Whereas in cases of discrimination based on race or national origin, the victim doesn’t have the benefit of comparing their experience to someone else.

Hill says the report, now that the information has come to light, will be good for Portland.

“I personally think that any time insidious discrimination comes to light, that is a good thing. Also, any time truth is spoken to the experience of marginalized people, any time people experiences with discrimination are brought to light and their stories are validated, I think that is a good thing.”

“In doing this work with the Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid, we work with low income individuals, and that is a marginalized group in society and many times we deal with clients who have just been made to feel like no one is going to listen to them or no one is going to believe them. Often with our clientele their perspective has been delegitimized for years, and I think anytime that the stories that they have to tell are validated and shown to be true and backed up with data, I think that’s a good thing.”

9 responses to “Breaking News: Nick Fish releases names of fair housing test offenders

  1. Cashauna Hill is a great lawyer.

  2. I was privy to the results of this audit a few months back and it literally made my stomach turn, that in this day and in Portland where we are so staunchly liberal, this kind of discrimination was rampant. We bend over backwards in public here to promote diversity yet, in private things haven’t changed.

    My guess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that not only do we have to educate the corporate real estate folks we also will have to get out into the minority communities and make sure they understand that as they themselves become property owners and managers, they cannot discriminate against people who are not from “their country.”

    Also I want to back up the compliment to Cashauna Hill — if all lawyers were like Ms. Hill, we would think of them as guardian angels and not voracious, money-grubbing sharks! Go Cashauna!

  3. Pingback: Fair Housing Council of Oregon flubs portion of high profile report | For those who can’t afford free speech

  4. THE BUSINESS LEADERS OF PORTLAND ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN PRACTICING DISCRIMINATORY HOUSING – THEY ARE POLICING THEMSELVES, WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I believe that one reason discrimination continues
    unabated is the lack of an adequate deterrent.

    Litigation IS EFFECTIVE.
    Class actions based on theories of disparate treatment & disparate treatment are epic hard work but indisputably – shift paradigms and create systemic change when nothing else can.

    For example, see and read (and compare to the overly conciliatory attitudes of OLC) the federal cases by Eric Dunn and HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT to end decades-long practices by Seattle Housing Authority of denying section 8 participants adequate due process termination hearings.

    “Outreach” & “education” are not effective deterrence to prevent housing discrimination.

    Landlords, property management agents, even public housing authority employees all KNOW and understand one reality:
    that only
    the most flagrant violations stand a chance at success, and even then, as the arc of this story demonstrates odds are against the victim.

    The absence of an aggressive tenant bar pro bono volunteer panel such as operated by the Seattle-King County Bar Association reinforces the inequities of unequal access to both housing and justice – keeping the playing field uneven.

    In order for members of fair housing protected classes to receive the access and equal opportunities we are constitutionally guaranteed to we must, as a group, secure greater success
    in proving claims of housing discrimination practices.

    REAL SIMPLE RULE TO LIVE BY NO. 3:

    If Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, the executive management and staffs of Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Portland Housing Bureau, Public Housing Authorities, State of Oregon Attorney General, (NOT BOLI or Brad Avakain) are not SINCERELY committed to performing their jobs to unambiguously eliminate all manifestations of overt and covert housing discrimination, then folks at least have the personal integrity to resign and get out of the way!

    Since executive director MOLOY GOOD of Fair Housing Council of Oregon has clearly seceded & abdicated their right to teach or advocate for the elimination of housing discrimination, housing credentials, OLC could fill the vacuum created by FHCO’S betrayal & landlord appeasement exert Some leadership to truly empower tenants of Portland And The Tri-County region with practical fair housing skills:

    1) Open a “people’s housing law school” – teach people the fundamentals of “issue spotting,” legal research, fact pattern analysis, precedents, history of FHA, 504, ADA, and landmark cases, IFP fee waivers drafting complaints. to pass
    Rile 8 fact-pleading muster and SJ, etc etc

    2) Hold a peoples housing summit ( for tenants only – NO landlords!) in the fall – invite the SKCBA and HJP Seattle & LA staffs with plaintiffs from some of those suits, bring in national housing advocates …

    REAL SIMPLE RULE TO LIVE BY NO. 3:

    If Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, the executive management and staffs of Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Portland Housing Bureau, Public Housing Authorities, State of Oregon Attorney General, (NOT BOLI or Brad Avakain) are not SINCERELY committed to performing their jobs to unambiguously eliminate all manifestations of overt and covert housing discrimination, then folks at least have the personal integrity to resign and get out of the way!

  6. I believe that one reason discrimination continues
    unabated is the lack of an adequate deterrent.

    Litigation IS EFFECTIVE.
    Class actions based on theories of disparate treatment & disparate treatment are epic hard work but indisputably – shift paradigms and create systemic change when nothing else can.

    For example, see and read (and compare to the overly conciliatory attitudes of OLC) the federal cases by Eric Dunn and HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT to end decades-long practices by Seattle Housing Authority of denying section 8 participants adequate due process termination hearings.

    “Outreach” & “education” are not effective deterrence to prevent housing discrimination.

    Landlords, property management agents, even public housing authority employees all KNOW and understand one reality:
    that only
    the most flagrant violations stand a chance at success, and even then, as the arc of this story demonstrates odds are against the victim.

    The absence of an aggressive tenant bar pro bono volunteer panel such as operated by the Seattle-King County Bar Association reinforces the inequities of unequal access to both housing and justice – keeping the playing field uneven.

    In order for members of fair housing protected classes to receive the access and equal opportunities we are constitutionally guaranteed to we must, as a group, secure greater success
    in proving claims of housing discrimination practices.

    REAL SIMPLE RULE TO LIVE BY NO. 3:

    If Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, the executive management and staffs of Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Portland Housing Bureau, Public Housing Authorities, State of Oregon Attorney General, (NOT BOLI or Brad Avakain) are not SINCERELY committed to performing their jobs to unambiguously eliminate all manifestations of overt and covert housing discrimination, then folks at least have the personal integrity to resign and get out of the way!

    SINCE executive director MOLOY GOOD of Fair Housing Council of Oregon has clearly seceded & abdicated their right to teach or advocate for the elimination of housing discrimination, housing credentials, OLC could fill the vacuum created by FHCO’S betrayal & landlord appeasement exert Some leadership to truly empower tenants of Portland And The Tri-County region with practical fair housing skills:

    1) Open a “people’s housing law school” – teach people the fundamentals of “issue spotting,” legal research, fact pattern analysis, precedents, history of FHA, 504, ADA, and landmark cases, IFP fee waivers drafting complaints. to pass
    Rile 8 fact-pleading muster and SJ, etc etc

    2) Hold a peoples housing summit ( for tenants only – NO landlords!) in the fall – invite the SKCBA and HJP Seattle & LA staffs with plaintiffs from some of those suits, bring in national housing advocates …

    REAL SIMPLE RULE TO LIVE BY NO. 3:

    If Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, the executive management and staffs of Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Portland Housing Bureau, Public Housing Authorities, State of Oregon Attorney General, (NOT BOLI or Brad Avakain) are not SINCERELY committed to performing their jobs to unambiguously eliminate all manifestations of overt and covert housing discrimination, then folks at least have the personal integrity to resign and get out of the way!

  7. Fair Tenant Screening Act (FTSA) 61st Leg. Reg. Sess (Wash. 2009); SB 5922, H.B. 2622, SB 5922 §1; HB 2622 §1

    Is a comprehensive approach to portability was recently proposed in the
    Fair Tenant Screening Act (FTSA), a bill that has steadily
    gained momentum since its introduction to the Washington Legislature in the 2009–2010 Biennium.

    As proposed under the new Washington FTSA law, a screening service that receives a fee for issuing a tenant-screening report to a landlord about a specific rental applicant would be obligated to provide copies of that same report at no charge “to any prospective landlord who has been authorized by the prospective tenant to receive the report” for the sixty (60) day period thereafter.

    Draft legislation similar to the 2009-2010 proposed Washington State Fair Tenant Screening Act (FTSA) of the 61st Leg. Reg. Sess (Wash. 2009) requiring 60-day portable tenant applicant screening reports to contain certain basic components (such as a credit report, criminal background check, and eviction history), meet minimal standards of quality, and be transmitted to housing providers in a manner that ensures the reports are not subject to fraud or alteration, could make portability a reality and help eliminate discriminatory housing practices in Oregon.

    “The legislature finds that residential landlords frequently use a type of credit report more commonly known as a tenant-screening report in evaluating and selecting tenants for their rental properties. These tenant-screening reports frequently contain misleading, incomplete, or inaccurate information about: eviction lawsuits where the landlord was unsuccessful and the tenant prevailed; protection orders the tenant obtained for protection against domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault; or other court records that, although not predictive of an applicant’s suitability for a residential tenancy, are often cited by housing providers as a basis for rejecting rental applicants. This use of court records unfairly diminishes the housing opportunities of many qualified rental applicants, and impairs the access of residential tenants to their day in court.

    These court records threaten a tenant’s future housing prospects irrespective as to the outcome of an action.”

    Another option for Nicky Feshy:

    and his hand-picked “housing practices commission” (whopee! yer another another Fishy commission) is, as first order of business to “encourage” MMHFA to “encourage” its landlord members to adopt and use Moco, Inc., a screening service that markets a tenant-initiated screening product called “myscreeningreport.com” .

    Use of Moco overcomes the specter of applicant-tampering by posting the screening report to a secure website. The applicant is then given a web address and password with which to access and view the report, which may be shared with housing providers. However, the tenant has no ability to change the contents of the report that appears on the website.

    Leave to a spokesperson with a national tenants’ rights group to speak the truth about this debacle when those that should KNOW BETTER (and know do the right thing) have capitulated and been played by the shuck and jive of housing lawyer/ex-housing authority of Portland board member (Fish).

    Here’s betting this modern-era hometown narrative of housing discrimination and corruption cover-up makes it onto the agendas this year of several national housing conferences as case study of a city’s enthrallment with it ‘s elite political correctness run amuck, and into the newsletters of national civil rights groups and new media outlets, such as the Bazelon Center

    This sequence of events is Portland’s contribution to a legacy of Jim Crow.

    Maybe it doesn’t rise to the large–scale egregiousness that rivals the travesties chronicled (and litigated) in post-Katrina New Orleans or Baltimore or Philadelphia, but its darn close.

    When the reality is that SOME of the most flagrant and pervasive housing discrimination occurs outside of metro Portland amongst the single family, duplex/triplex owing mom-and pop landlords, it’s an short-sight public policy error for the counties of Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas to obligingly accede to HUD setting up PORTLAND municipal housing enforcement bureau limited to the jurisdiction of Portland.

  8. Unblievaeble how well-written and informative this was.

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