Annually, the Center receives over 1,100 phone calls from CT residents who are facing barriers to housing. Victims of discrimination report increased stress and are more likely to suffer depression. The effects of discrimination likely affect the security and safety of families and caregivers long after the discriminatory behavior. Clients often report that because of their young children they are denied housing.
STATEWIDE –Systemic testing projects are completed annually by the Center. We are aware of how the presence of a criminal background is an enormous barrier to securing housing, and in 2019 the Connecticut General Assembly is working to reduce some of these barriers. We suspected that a criminal history was likely even a larger barrier if the applicant for housing was African American.
The Center’s fair housing specialist, Maria Cuerda, coordinated a testing project to confirm our theory. Maria sent a white tester and an African American tester to several housing providers to apply for rental housing. Both disclosed that they had a criminal history. In over half of the tests, the African American individual was treated in a way that suggested their criminal history would bar them from housing, but the white tester was not. Furthermore, the testing revealed that housing providers often have blanket bans against anyone with a specific type of criminal history. This acts as an additional barrier to all individuals of color because of their disproportionate representation within our criminal justice system.
WEST HARTFORD – Amber’s and Randolph’s new baby was weeks old when their landlord told them they would have to leave their spacious one bedroom apartment because the landlord had bedroom occupancy limits, and they could no longer continue to live in the one bedroom apartment with the baby. Bedroom occupancy limits are a violation of the Fair Housing Act, because they have a disparate impact on families with children. Center Attorney Pamela Heller represented the family and was able to secure their housing. Amber explained in public testimony:
“When we needed help, when we didn’t know our rights or how to enforce them, the Center was there for us.”
The Center joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), 18 other fair housing organizations, and two Maryland homeowners in filing a lawsuit against Bank of America and Safeguard Properties Management alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit accuses the parties of failing to maintain bank-owned properties in communities of color to the same level as their properties in white areas, amounting to discriminatory treatment that is illegal under federal fair housing law.
Percentage of BOA-owned properties in communities of color that had major maintenance problems, such as unkempt lawns, pests and rodents, boarded-up windows, and trash in the yard.
Percentage of BOA-owned properties in white neighborhoods in similar condition.
This neglect affects property values, health, and safety in these communities. The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation by the NFHA and fair housing agencies across the country, including the Center. Together, we investigated more than 1,600 Bank of America-owned homes in working- and middle-class white, African-American, and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas nationwide, including in Connecticut.