Fair Housing Implications of the Flint Water Crisis – Fair Housing 5 for February 5, 2016

With the start of the new year, a slight tweak was made to the frequency of the Fair Housing 5 posts. Instead of producing a new post every Friday, the FH5 will now be published only ever first Friday of the month. But who knows, this schedule may change again as the flow of the publications can is assessed down the line. At any rate, here is the Fair Housing 5 for February!

  • The Bluegrass State lost a pillar of civil rights activism this past month. Georgia Davis Powers, the first Black woman elected to the Kentucky senate and a life-long civil rights advocate, died Saturday, January 30. And while Powers herself has now shuffled off this mortal coil, the life of her legacy remains as vibrant and alive as ever. The Courier Journal notes, “Powers pushed through several anti-discrimination measures in the late 1960s, including a bill that made Kentucky the first state in the South to approve fair-housing.” During the memorial service held in her honor in Louisville on Monday, February 1, many current city and state officials shared how Powers inspired them to take up the mission that she herself devoted her life to. [Courier Journal, Herald-Leader]
  • A new nonprofit in Lexington aims to provide shelter and support to female veterans of the United States military. In addition to experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and increased suicide risk, Phyllis Abbot, who started Sheppard’s Hands, says that many female veterans “also suffer trauma as a result of sexual assault or harassment endured during their time in the military.” When the organization welcomes its first clients in March, it will become one of only a few agencies in the country that assist female veterans exclusively. Currently, military or veteran status is not a protected status under federal fair housing law, and no city or county in Kentucky have ordinances that protect this group from discrimination.
    [Herald Leader]
  • The city council of Iowa City has unanimously approved a first reading of a proposed ordinance that would extend housing discrimination laws to protect recipients of Section 8 vouchers. The city currently includes source of income as a protected status, but current law excludes people who receive assistance from the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. Stefanie Bowers, the Human Rights Coordinator for Iowa City, explained the new proposal, saying, “What we’re saying is that the landlord could not reject the housing choice applicant and not consider them for a unit based solely on that criterion.” [Press-Citizen]
  • The horrors of the water contamination in Flint, Michigan, are an indisputable affront to the dignity of the city’s residents. The harm that has resulted from the city and state government’s abject decisions to permit such a catastrophe has been pointed to as evidence of institutionalized racism and reproductive injustice. Looking at the crisis intersectionally, it’s then hard not to consider the plight of Flint as a possible fair housing issue, too. As of this writing, no fair housing complaints have been filed against city or state officials, but the impact of these actions as it relates to where these residents have opportunities to live is undeniable. [Center for American Progress, RH Reality Check]
  • Related to the issue of one’s home being knowingly contaminated and dangerous, a pair of Cleveland, Ohio, landlords were recently ordered to pay $4 million to a group of female tenants on the grounds that the duo violated federal fair housing laws “by targeting female tenants, for abuse and intimidation.” After one of the complainant’s sons tested positive for lead poisoning in 2013, the city informed the tenant’s landlord that the property needed to be inspected. The landlord, Derek Brown, then proceeded to “shut off [the tenant’s] electricity, changed the locks before she could move out, and kept her stove, her refrigerator, her television and her baby photos.”
  • (Photo: The Flint River in Flint, Michigan, USA, taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and licensed under public domain.)