April is Fair Housing Month. It’s been fifty years since the signing of the Fair Housing Act. It’s also been fifty years since the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an act that may well have proved the deciding factor in moving the congressional debate forward towards passage of the Civil Rights legislation. We should remember not merely that April is set aside to recall the passage of truly monumental legislation but that, exemplified in the living example of Dr. King and so many before us, a still-necessary fight exists for fundamental fairness in our daily lives.
Systemic racism, individual discrimination, and implicit bias are alive and well in our city, our state and this American society. We know this to be true because ATC fair housing staff receives and process hundreds of complaints annually; complaints from single mothers who are told that their children may not sleep in a single room with them; complaints from veterans who are asked to vacate because they “appear dangerous” when their PTSD reemerges; complaints from African-Americans who are openly treated different from their white counterparts at the leasing desk.
In 2017, the fair housing staff received and processed 407 complaints. Thanks to the Fair Housing Act and the determined work of the fair housing advocates at ATC, anyone who feels that they’re the target of discrimination has the right to due process in matters of housing discrimination. Anyone may submit a formal complaint to HUD for review and investigation if they believe they are being treated differently based upon their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. To its great credit, the City of Austin additionally ensures anti-discrimination protection based upon a person’s status as a student, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.
This is the good work of ATC’s fair housing department: to build a more equitable, fair and decent Texas, “case by case, issue by issue,” as Director Phoenix put it.
Providing indispensible daily guidance, Fred Fuchs serves as ATC Director of Litigation. Mr. Fuchs has long served both ATC and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid as a senior staff attorney and convenes bi-weekly conference meetings with fair housing staff to ensure that they have the most current knowledge and information relating to developments in fair housing.
Discrimination is not always apparent to the recipient and it may manifest itself in various forms, many unobvious. If you feel that you are experiencing discrimination, even if you feel uncertain if it’s actually discrimination, please call our telephone counseling line at: 512-474-1961. A counselor will listen to your story and refer you to our fair housing department where a fair housing specialist will respond to you within 24 - 48 hours to review the facts and determine next steps, if any.