Tag Archives: fair housing council

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.”

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Fish pledges enforcement, education against housing discrimination

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

An audit of the city’s fair housing practices completed nearly four months ago has recently set tongues wagging over what the city is going to do with the high rate of reported discrimination.

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.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish

“When we got the results we were alarmed by the high incidence of discrimination, particularly among people of color,” said City Commissioner Nick Fish, who heads up the Portland Housing Bureau. Fish said he and Portland Housing Bureau Executive Director Margaret Van Vliet are taking a dual track approach to rectify the situation, which was first published by The Oregonian.

“We’re going to be working with landlords and their associations and the advocacy community to do outreach and education,” Fish said. “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.

However, Fish said he is talking with the attorney general about partnering with other forces, either through administrative or with a lawsuit, to push enforcement on some egregious violators.

“There will be something tangible we can point to,” Fish said.

The audit comprised 50 tests – 25 test tenants based in race (African-American renters with white), and 25 based on national origin (Latino compared to white). Of the race tests, 15 showed different treatment. Of the national origin tests, 17 showed different treatment and 6 were inconclusive. Among the disparities in treatment were African-Americans and Latinos being quoted higher movie-in costs and higher rent, and additional costs that were not applied to white applicants.

Fish’s father, Rep. Hamilton Fish, was a champion of the Fair Housing Act of 1988, which expanded protections to families with children and people with disabilities. It also expanded options for redress on grievances through private means.