NFHTA Digest

NFHTA Digest: June 2021


COVID and the Eviction Moratorium

As NFHTA faculty, we have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the inequities in housing. Through our instructor led courses, we empower FHIP and FHAP staff to take well-informed actions to address the concerns of aggrieved parties – but there is much more that is needed in response to this critical time.

To provide continued relief to housing consumers, an extension to the federal eviction moratorium was announced on March 29, 2021. Unfortunately, FHIP and FHAP staff are seeing instances of housing providers discriminating against tenants, rendering the most vulnerable of our nation even more powerless. Housing providers are feeling the impact of the crisis too. A recent Urban Institute study found that almost half of rental units are single family or 2-to-4-unit buildings, many of which are owned by smaller businesses, who do not have quick access to additional credit or funding.

The national moratorium led to a decrease of an estimated 1.55 million eviction cases last year, but uncertainty is still present. On May 5, a federal judge found that the moratorium lacked legal authority. As members of the fair housing community, we must empower ourselves to be of assistance to those impacted by the pandemic. Additional resources for our partners can be found on HUD’s Coronavirus Resources page and on the National Housing Law Project website. Be aware of local COVID aid programs, such as emergency rental and utility assistance.

Conciliation is a tool we can all use to bring resolution to the aggrieved parties we encounter. Check out the Pro Tips section below for additional information to bring empowerment during a time of crises.

Register Today | On the Brink: The Looming Eviction Crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Join NFHTA and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in a conversation focusing on the impact of the eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This forum will cover the following topics:

  • The effects of the eviction moratorium during the pandemic on people of color and others in protected classes.
  • The status of eviction moratoria
  • Current rental assistance programs
  • Legal standards for combating eviction as a fair housing violation.
  • Tools to stop evictions that violate fair housing laws.
  • Potential partnerships between FHIP and FHAP agencies and local legal aid organizations.

Note: NFHTA's July National Fair Housing Forum will address the pending foreclosure crisis

Register Today

Meet the Faculty: Steve Tomkowiak, Esq.

Mr. Tomkowiak has been a steadfast advocate of fair housing. He has walked the walk as a fair housing litigator and has transferred his knowledge and experience to the hundreds of fair housing practitioners that he has trained and coached. He leverages his experience for the content development and delivery of NFHTA’s Litigating Fair Housing Cases course. Let’s learn more about Steve:

What brought you to fair housing work?

I have always wanted to make a difference in marginalized, minority communities. Before law school, I taught for years in inner city schools where I saw the impact of discrimination on the lives of my students. In law school, I strove to make the law review more diverse to recognize the voice of those not heard before. While I was in private practice dealing with employment discrimination cases, I worked with a former U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) attorney who introduced me to the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit. After working on a couple of fair housing cases, I became committed to fair housing work. Combatting segregation and providing equal housing opportunities remain among the most important issues in the civil rights movement.

What is the most satisfying part of being an instructor for NFHTA?

Seeing the way our courses enable participants to be more effective in working on fair housing cases and in making a difference in their communities is most satisfying. Part of being an instructor is spending time with participants who share a passion for fair housing. It has also been gratifying to see the commitment of HUD leadership to fair housing training.

What is one piece of advice you have for a new practitioner working in fair housing?

New or old, practitioners should spend at least a few hours each week to read and stay abreast of new developments in fair housing. It is a very important habit to develop early in one’s career.

What is the most emergent issue that you see within fair housing and fair lending now?

Some of the most prominent issues that I see in my community are the need for source of income protections, implementing the new or renewed affirmative furthering fair housing (AFFH) requirement, and taking meaningful steps to address the crisis in the lack of affordable housing. As to fair lending, consumers need training in all aspects of financial management so that instances of lending discrimination or predatory lending will be more readily recognized.

As a leader and voice in the FHIP community, what advice do you have to strengthen partnerships with FHAPs?

Greater communication and teamwork. This begins by acknowledging our shared goals: fair housing compliance and enforcement. Communities achieving the greatest success in fair housing are communities where the FHIP and FHAP offices work together.

Don't miss the June National Fair Housing Forum to hear more from Mr. Tomkowiak as he joins other panelists to discuss the looming eviction crisis.

Steve Tomkowiak Bio
Steve Tomkowiak, Esq.

Executive Director
Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit

View Steve's Bio

Pro Tips for FHIPs and FHAPs: Effective Conciliation Techniques

As tenants face the possible end of the eviction moratorium, we anticipate an increase in fair housing inquires and complaints coming to FHIP and FHAP agencies. One of the most powerful tools to resolve those complaints is conciliation – FHIP or FHAP staff mediating between the fair housing complainant and respondent, with the intent of a formalized and documented resolution to the complaint.

For this month’s Pro Tip, we examine some of the pain points that you may encounter during conciliation:

  • Public Interest Provisions:
    As FHIP and FHAP staff navigate through proposed conciliation terms, we must include effective methods that will correct discriminatory behavior and/or policy, that will also impose a duty for future compliance with the Fair Housing Act. An effective conciliation must include terms to eliminate discriminatory housing practices. Conciliations need to prevent future discriminatory housing practices, while offering remedial affirmative activities to overcome discriminatory housing practices. Monitor the agreement's terms by building in reporting requirements and enforcement activities.
  • Know Your Role:
    FHIP and FHAP staff are often involved in investigating and conciliating a case at the same time. It is important to clearly delineate the role you are playing at a given time. Explaining the process to complainants, aggrieved parties, and the respondent prior to each contact will provide clarity. Do not commingle notes regarding investigation and conciliation. If your agency has the resources, consider one staff member handling the investigation, with another spearheading conciliation efforts.
  • Know Your Resources
    HUD offers robust guidance on conciliation, such as the Chapter 11 of the Title VIII Complaint Intake, Investigation, and Conciliation Handbook. Consider sending staff to train on mediation, conciliation, and alternative dispute resolution techniques. If feasible, shadow mediation staff to gain on the job experience on the process.

In Case You Missed It...

May National Fair Housing Forum Materials Now Available

On May 19, 2021, NFHTA convened its second National Fair Housing Forum of 2021, which focused on the growing concern of bias in home appraisals. insightful discussion with experts in the field covered the following topics:

  • The history of appraisal valuations in communities of color and its impact on those residents and communities.
  • Fair Housing Act’s provisions for non-discriminatory appraisals of dwellings.
  • How discrimination may occur in the appraisal valuation process.
  • Impact of discriminatory appraisals on generational wealth.
  • Methods to challenge a discriminatory appraisal.

We encourage you to have conversations within your agencies on ways to address and investigate biased home appraisals. To build your capacity to address this critical issue, please enroll in a Fundamentals of Fair Housing course.

May Fair Housing Forum Recording

A recording of the event, along with an updated list of resources including a job aid, is now available.

View the Forum Materials

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Are you interested in learning more about what NFHTA offers? View the full Academy Event Calendar to learn more about NFHTA courses and events designed to help build the knowledge, skills, and capacity of HUD’s FHIP and FHAP organization partners.

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