April is celebrated as Fair Housing Month in honor of the enactment of the Fair Housing Act. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) disability and family status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).
In subsequent years, the tradition of celebrating Fair Housing Month grew larger and larger. I am an advocate for fair housing and feel that it is a good thing. I believe that all individuals regardless of their race, color, national origin, disability, gender and family status should have equal access to rental housing and homeownership opportunities.
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. Additional protection is provided if you have a disability or someone associated with you has a physical or mental disability. For example, if a building with a “no pets” policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog. There is also protection for families with children.
It is unlawful to discriminate in housing practices. If you have specific questions or issues, I encourage you to contact Metropolitan Human Relations Commission in Fort Wayne, Indiana that provides more detailed and technical information on housing discrimination.
There are a number of services that our office provides. Since it is Fair Housing month, I have chosen to focus on our shelter assistance program. Of course, it is a major service to our clients. The Wayne Township budget allocates 22% to providing shelter assistance. We provide aid necessary to provide shelter or prevent the loss of shelter for Wayne Township clients. We provide aid while assessing the most “economical and practical” method of relieving the applicant.
Our staff reviews the applicant’s request for shelter assistance in detail. This includes a budget submitted by the client. In many cases an applicant’s shelter expense exceeds their income capacity. Simply stated, the client is struggling to maintain regular shelter payments with a loss or decrease in income for various reasons. Therefore, we may encourage the client to apply for low-income or senior housing.
Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. There are several websites and agencies that provide excellent service and information for individuals seeking public housing. Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) and Fort Wayne Housing Authority assists clients with Section 8 Housing, Housing Vouchers and Section 42-Tax Credit Properties and other housing needs.
It is apparent that the economic horizon is changing across the United States. Recent U.S. Government budget cuts mean less money coming from the government to support school, housing and social services programs. I would encourage all individuals to take advantage of resources in the community to ensure that their housing needs are met. In spite of the budget issues, my office will continue to provide excellent service in providing temporary shelter assistance to eligible clients.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee