Visit Online Fair Housing Resources to Get Help with Compliance
Fair housing compliance is key to successful tax credit management. Here are five online resources for you to check out. Each site offers a product, service, or activity that can help you better understand what you must do to avoid illegally discriminating against applicants and residents at your tax credit site. We’ll tell you why they’re helpful and what to expect when you visit.
#1: Review the Basics with the Fair Housing: Equal Housing Opportunity for All Booklet
At www.hud.gov/sites/documents/FHEO_BOOKLET_ENG.PDF, you can download a handy 16-page booklet that offers a concise review of the basics of compliance with the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). It identifies the FHA’s so-called protected classes, outlines what types of conduct are banned, and points out special issues relating to individuals with disabilities and families with children.
Visiting this website automatically brings up a copy of the booklet in PDF format. You can then print the booklet for your staff members to read and keep a copy in your office for easy reference.
#2: Clear Up Common Misconceptions About Fair Housing
HUD published a report entitled, “How Much Do We Know? Public Awareness of the Nation’s Fair Housing Laws” at www.huduser.gov/Publications/pdf/hmwk.pdf. It revealed that a surprisingly large percentage of the public has misconceptions about which types of discrimination fair housing law bans and what the law requires owners and managers to do to treat prospects and residents fairly. For instance, HUD found that 79 percent of the public doesn’t know that rejecting an applicant because of the quality of her housekeeping practices isn’t an illegal basis for discrimination.
The survey is a must-read for everyone involved in tax credit management, including owners, managers, and staff members. If you discover that you or your staff members have misconceptions about what you must do to comply with fair housing law, consider arranging for more fair housing training. The survey is available for downloading in PDF format.
#3: Check for Compliance with the FHA’s Design and Construction Requirements
The official site for “Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST,” an initiative sponsored by HUD to promote compliance with the FHA’s design and construction requirements, is www.fairhousingfirst.org. Generally speaking, these requirements apply to your tax credit site if it was built for first occupancy on or after March 13, 1991. If you determine that your site doesn’t comply with all requirements and it’s supposed to, you should talk to a fair housing consultant or architect about what changes you need to make.
To determine whether your site is covered by the FHA’s design and construction requirements, click “Coverage” under the fair housing option on the main page. You can also click “Design and Construction Requirements” to read about the requirements. They range from keeping routes accessible to ensuring that kitchens and bathrooms are usable. You can also click “Training” if you’re interested in instruction modules or professional training curriculum with instruction materials for those who would like more clarity on some fair housing issues.
#4: Consult ‘Word and Phrase List’ to Check Advertising for Potential Fair Housing Violations
At www.mvfairhousing.com/pdfs/ad-word-list.pdf, you’ll find the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s “Fair Housing Advertising Word and Phrase List.” To comply with the FHA and state and local fair housing law, you mustn’t discriminate against members of any protected class in your advertisements. But the FHA doesn’t list specific words or phrases that it considers discriminatory. Some words and phrases, such as “no blacks” or “not for handicapped,” are obviously discriminatory. But many owners and managers may not realize that other words and phrases, such as “near synagogue” or “newlyweds,” may also lead to fair housing trouble if you include them in your ads.
Consulting this list or words and phrases when creating your ads can help prevent you from inadvertently discriminating when advertising your tax credit site. And you can check your current ads against the words and phrases in this list to decide whether you should make any changes. The included words and phrases are conveniently labeled “acceptable,” “not acceptable,” or “caution” and are offered to the public only as a general guide. Of course, the list isn’t exhaustive.
#5: Add HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Logo to Your Company’s Website
If your company has its own website, consider including the official HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity logo, available at www.hud.gov/library/bookshelf11/hudgraphics. The equal housing opportunity logo is a picture of a small house with the words “equal housing opportunity” directly beneath it. The FHA doesn’t require you to include the logo, but by adding it to your website, you emphasize your company’s commitment to fair housing and get out the message that you don’t discriminate.
This page of HUD’s website offers the logo free and gives instructions on how to download it. HUD makes the logo available in nine sizes, ranging from ½ inch to four inches, in different file formats. Note that the small house picture can’t be used without the words “equal housing opportunity” beneath it, but the words can be used without the small house picture.
Editor’s Note: The Insider’s sister publication, Fair Housing Coach, provides monthly lessons and quizzes that you can use to train your staff to comply with fair housing law and avoid costly discrimination lawsuits. For a free recent issue on How to Handle Requests for Assistance Animals, go to https://www.fairhousingcoach.com/free-trial-issue-sign-up.