One of the primary functions of the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan is to investigate illegal housing discrimination.
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We investigate illegal housing discrimination in two ways
Complaint Based Investigations
When someone believes they are a victim of illegal housing discrimination, they contact our office and make a complaint. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age, marital status, or because you have children — contact our office.
Most illegal housing discrimination goes unnoticed by its victims. How is one supposed to know they were charged more for housing, or offered units in only a couple of neighborhoods, or in one part of the building? Through systemic investigations, our organization can uncover discrimination that is not reported. We are continually conducting systemic investigations in the Southwest Michigan housing market. See examples of some of our investigations below.
Through systemic investigations, our organization can help create systemic change. Discriminatory findings may lead to lawsuits, administrative complaints with the government, or education in the community.
More recently, our organization started utilizing surveys to gather information and evidence on housing policies and practices. Based on information gathered from previous investigations and complaints from the community, we are gathering information through surveys from renters, homeowners, and potential homeowners.
If you received a prompt to complete a survey, please click on the button. It is important that as many people who receive surveys fill them out, so we can assess the magnitude of housing discrimination in our community.
Discrimination in Rental Housing
In rental housing, people can also be victims of steering. In some cases, people are told housing is not available, when in fact it is available. More commonly in Southwest Michigan, we see that people are offered less favorable Terms and Conditions on the basis of their race:
Examples of discriminatory terms and conditions in rental housing:
- a housing provider not allowing children into a club house
- a landlord targets some tenants for noise and not others
- a property manager offers a move in special to white people only
There are also subtle ways housing providers can keep people out of rental housing. For example, having policies that are too strict can sometimes keep certain people out. Some criminal background policies keep Black and Hispanic renters out, some source of income policies keep people with disabilities out, and some occupancy policies keep families with children out.
Has a policy kept you out of housing?
Racial Discrimination in Homeownership
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for housing agents to discriminate against potential home buyers because of their race. Our race-based investigations have uncovered discriminatory housing practices in all phases of homeownership—from seeking real estate, finding a loan, and insuring a property.
Discriminatory housing practices of the past, like redlining, have taken new shapes.
Our race-based investigations also uncover the discriminatory housing practice of steering. Our investigations have found that both realtors and lenders steer Black and White potential homeowners in different ways:
- recommending different neighborhoods or zip codes to Black and White potential homeowners
- offering fewer housing options to Black potential homeowners
- offering a lower loan value to Black potential homeowners, thereby reducing the housing options available
Have you experienced something like this?
We can see the consequences of segregation and these discriminatory housing practices in both health and wealth disparities. More recently, the nation is shedding light on how these historic and modern discriminatory housing practices are linked to environmental racism.