(Posted Feb. 24, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
By law, a person cannot be denied housing due to their race, military status, color, religion, sex, nationality, disability status, or because of their children.
Lucie McMahon, assistant planner with CDC of Ohio, outlined the basics of fair housing law at the Madison County commissioners meeting on Feb. 22. CDC administers the federal funding the county receives through the Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
McMahon will meet with community leaders and social service representatives at 11 a.m. Feb. 29 to discuss any roadblocks residents might have in securing housing. The meeting will take place in the commissioners’ office at the courthouse in London.
McMahon said that anyone with questions about housing discrimination should call the Fair Housing Program hotline at 1-800-850-0467.
“They handle fair housing and landlord-tenant complaints,” she said.
A brochure available at the commissioners office outlines signs of possible discrimination:
- You are told the apartment you want to rent is not available after you have completed an application.
- You are told you cannot rent an apartment because of your children.
- You are asked to sign blank or incomplete documents.
- You are told you might like “another neighborhood” or you cannot “afford” the neighborhood.
McMahon said the majority of fair housing complaints involve rental properties. She advised renters to become educated on their rights. The most important advice is to get the lease agreement in writing for protection in case issues arise. That being said, a tenant who does not have a written lease still has the same rights as one who does.
Tips for tenants who do not have a lease include:
- Get the name and address of your landlord.
- Know when and where rent is to be paid.
- Know the utilities you will pay and the utilities your landlord will pay.
- If the unit needs repairs, don’t move until the repairs are made.
- If a landlord promises to pay you to make repairs, get the promises in writing.
- If you are living in a unit that needs repairs, request those repairs in writing and give a reasonable amount of time for them to be completed. The landlord is responsible for making the unit livable and in good working order. If the landlord is not meeting these obligations, call the Fair Housing hotline.
Madison County Commissioner David Dhume said the commissioners office has not received complaints about housing discrimination, but did say the county sorely lacks affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families.
McMahon suggested the county look at ways to manipulate its CHIP funding to offer residents more down payment assistance. She also noted that CHIP funding can go toward Habitat for Humanity new-builds.
Marilyn Pritt, housing counselor with Homes on the Hill, said she is urging leaders at her organization to look into offering services in Madison County. As a resident of Madison County, Pritt knows the area’s need for affordable housing.
Homes on the Hill is a community development corporation serving the westside of Columbus. The non-profit offers financial coaching, homebuyer education workshops, foreclosure prevention, and down payment assistance. The organization acquires vacant lots through the City of Columbus Land Bank for housing construction. Additionally, banks donate houses to Homes on the Hill, which then rehabilitates the homes and sells them.
“We try to think outside the box for safe and affordable housing and for housing for the elderly,” Pritt said.
In other action at the commissioners meeting, Dura-Seal Ohio won the bid to sealcoat the Prairie Grass Trail, the 6.4-mile bike path between London and the Madison-Clark county line. The Columbus company will do the work for $25,234.