Fair housing laws make it illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, source of income, and age in the rental or sale, financing, advertising, appraisal of housing, provision of real estate brokerage services, etc. (including land-use practices). Government code also expressly prohibits localities from discriminating against residential development or emergency shelters if the intended occupants are low-income or if the development is subsidized. All units of government are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public and commercial facilities, delivery of services, zoning, and land-use.
Because state and federal laws uniformly outlaw most kinds of housing discrimination, the local government’s role is to identify program strategies that support and implement these laws. Such strategies may include consultation with fair housing and counseling organizations in the community to document the incidence of housing discrimination and evaluation of the availability of services.
In the housing element, a local equal housing opportunity program must provide a means for the resolution of local housing discrimination complaints and should include a program to disseminate fair housing information (including fair housing laws) and resource information throughout the community. The local program must also provide referrals to appropriate investigative or enforcement agencies. Where appropriate, communities should distribute fair housing information in languages other than English. Fair housing information could be displayed on buses/at bus stops, at community and senior centers, local social service offices, and other public locations, such as civic centers or county administrative offices.
The housing element must also address any zoning or other land-use laws or practices that either expressly discriminate against a group protected by the fair housing laws or have the effect of discriminating against a group.
In larger and/or urban jurisdictions, more direct program actions would be appropriate, such as committing to use Community Development Block Grant funds to support fair housing information and referral and counseling services. The locality may wish to contract with (or create) a fair housing council to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints and promote specific, equal housing opportunity actions before community and business organizations.
Jurisdictions receiving federal funds directly from HUD (e.g. funding from federal programs such as Community Development Block Grants, HOME funds) must prepare a “consolidated plan” that includes certification that the jurisdiction will affirmatively further fair housing. These jurisdictions must also conduct an analysis to identify impediments to fair housing choice and must take actions to overcome the effects of any impediments identified. Many jurisdictions cross-reference and/or incorporate fair housing information and data from the consolidated plan into their housing element. For example, the consolidated plan requires the “analysis of impediments to fair housing choice” that addresses barriers to equal housing opportunities. The housing element should incorporate this information to facilitate an adequate analysis. Further, barriers identified in the “analysis of impediments” should be addressed by programs in the housing element.
If Fair Housing Services Are Inadequate/not Available
If fair housing services are not available or are inadequate, the locality can request technical assistance to help develop specific, local government actions to promote equal housing opportunities. For assistance, jurisdictions can call: