Sunday, October 1, 2023

Virginia Fair Housing Law Needs Better Enforcement

A 2022 report from the National Fair Housing Association found private fair housing organizations across the U.S. processed 2.6 times the number of fair housing complaints processed by local, state and federal agencies. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — As Fair Housing Month gets underway, a Virginia group feels more can be done to enforce fair housing laws.

Along with the federal Fair Housing Act, most states have their own fair housing laws preventing housing discrimination. Virginia updated its Fair Housing Law in 2020 to ensure if a person uses money from a rental assistance program or subsidy, they cannot be discriminated against.

Laura Dobbs, deputy director for the Center of Housing Advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said despite the protections, discrimination still occurs.

“I think a common one we still see, despite these protections, is a landlord who might post something on advertising for housing that said, ‘no voucher holders,’ like does not take vouchers ’cause that is illegal,” Dobbs pointed out. “Or otherwise representing that there’s housing that’s unavailable because someone said they have a voucher.”

Dobbs added there was a rise in such discrimination throughout the pandemic, and it is happening across the U.S. Fair housing complaints are on the rise. According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, 2021 saw more than 31,000 housing complaints; an almost 9% increase from 2020.

This year marks the 55th Anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act’s passage. The act’s original purpose was eliminating segregation in housing, but Dobbs noted new forms of housing discrimination have risen since its inception. She argued there needs to be a push to guarantee people can live where they want.

“Affirmatively fair housing is aimed at tasking, whether it’s government or nongovernment entities who are taking funding to be more proactive in creating housing, that is allowing people to live where they want to live,” Dobbs explained.

Earlier this year, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge put forward a proposed rule to overcome patterns of segregation in housing. The rule aims to fully administer the Fair Housing Act, adding communities need to take action to combat discrimination.

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