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NFHTA Digest: October 2021

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Equity and PAVE

A home is the largest investment most people will make in their lives. Homeownership leads to building equity and the creation of generational wealth. As FHIP and FHAP practitioners have learned, racial bias in home valuation prevents families from creating wealth and deepens racial disparities throughout our nation.

Earlier this year at the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the President announced the creation of an interagency task force to combat bias in how residential property is valued throughout the Nation. This summer, Secretary Fudge along with Domestic Policy Council (DPC) Director Susan Rice established the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) to examine this significant fair housing issue.

PAVE’s objective is to advance appraisal and valuation equity for all Americans, especially families and communities of color. 15 Cabinet and independent agency members will take action to address the racial wealth gap by rooting out systemic racism in how residential property is valued.

For more information on this critical issue, please visit our past forums regarding discriminatory appraisals. Additional information on PAVE’s purpose and mission can be found in the PD&R July Quarterly Update.

Learn More About PAVE

Last Chance: Register for the October Forum

Fair Housing Tools to Combat Housing-Related Harassment and Hate Crimes Against the AANHPI Community

Join NFHTA and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in a conversation focusing on fair housing tools to combat housing-related harassment and hate crimes against the Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. This forum will consist of remarks from the Biden-Harris Administration, FHEO Leadership, and a live roundtable.

Register Now

Meet the Faculty: Keenya Robertson, Esq.

Keenya Robertson has dedicated her professional career to advocating for fair housing and other civil rights. Ms. Robertson is a graduate of Florida State University and the Louisiana State University Law School. She is President & CEO of Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (HOPE), a 32-year-old private non-profit fair housing organization in Florida whose mission is to fight housing discrimination in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and to promote equal housing opportunities throughout Florida. Under her leadership, which began in January 2007, the agency has been instrumental in the recovery of approximately $4 million in the settlement of housing discrimination cases.

Ms. Robertson currently serves as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). She has testified before the United States Congress, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, and the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and made guest appearances as a fair housing expert on MSNBC, local news stations, and local television programs as a fair housing expert.

Let’s learn more about Ms. Robertson:

What brought you to fair housing work?

I am personally drawn to civil rights work, and I also find nonprofit-based work fulfilling. Laws intended to protect the rights of people speak to me because they are tools that allow us to fight for what is right and just on behalf of those who have been excluded from opportunity, fair treatment, and equal freedoms. Making any type of difference for an individual or family is what keeps me doing this work.

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

I find feedback that lets me know I provided a NFHTA course participant with useful tools or information very satisfying. If I am able to explain something they didn’t understand before, offer an approach to help them be more effective in their community, or suggest a way to look at something in a different light, I know this has the potential to impact the services they provide or the lives of the people they’re working with.

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

Never think you’ve learned or seen it all! Continue to absorb new information and grow your knowledge base because this truly is a field that is constantly evolving. I’ve done this work for 27 years and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new.

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

The most emergent issues right now are tied to the pandemic, but discriminatory practices that have always been there still need to be given constant attention and addressed. Discrimination in residential appraisals is at the forefront at the moment, but we’re just seeing what has always been there. I would also need to include the potential to rebuild fair housing infrastructure by restoring rules, regulations, and guidance that allows the true, original, and hard-fought intent and purpose of the Fair Housing Act to be realized.

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

Talk with each other. Look for opportunities to partner. Cross-train to get a complete understanding of each other’s processes. Talk about what each office does, how each functions, and find ways you complement each other’s goals. Collaborate on outreach; for example, hold events together during April for Fair Housing Month. Collaborate on enforcement; for example, FHIP organizations can provide valuable testing evidence if the FHAP understands how and when testing works.

Keenya Robertson Bio
Keenya Robertson

President and CEO
Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (HOPE)

View Keenya's Bio

Effective Intake Interviewing

The goal of NFHTA is to forge partnerships and build skills to end housing discrimination in our country. Skill building is critical to effectively advancing fair housing in our communities. For this month’s Pro Tips, we share some tried and true practices that will assist you with maximizing your effectiveness during that very first step (and arguably the most crucial) - intake!

  • "Peeling the Onion":
    Just like an onion, most intake calls have numerous layers where valuable information may exist. During the process, it is critical to gather as much information as soon as possible for a couple of reasons. First, it is fresh in the aggrieved party's memory. Second, the fuller the picture, the better you'll be able to most effectively establish the next steps - whether that means opening an investigation, referring them to another local resource, or a combination of both. Do not be afraid to ask follow-up questions. People that are calling want to be heard and reassuringly asking questions validates that you are listening. Most importantly, never assume.
  • Details Matter:
    If you think you‘ve covered all the necessary basic information (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.), triple check. While this information may seem obvious, reviewing it may jog a person's memory about the housing provider, a witness, or another detail they believed wasn’t relevant, but in reality, may be key. This is especially crucial if the case moves forward because you’ll want to be sure you have all of the information for potential respondents ready to go.
  • Immediately Secure Any and All Evidence:
    Few things are more frustrating during an investigation than when the discrimination has been memorialized (text, email, voicemail, recording, etc.) and then evidence gets accidentally deleted, the phone breaks, and/or any other number of ways that evidence can be lost forever. Compiling and securing as much evidence from the very beginning is essential.
  • Be Kind:
    Imagine if you experienced housing discrimination and were brave enough to report it. What would you want the person on the other end of the phone to say to you? How would you want them to talk to you? Now, when you receive a complaint, be THAT person. Oftentimes, that first call can be just as much about reporting an incident as it is about being validated and heard. At the very least, people calling to report an issue are likely stressed, if not distraught and/or traumatized. They may require some reassurance that you’re going to do your best to assist them and it’s great to let them know the variety of ways that could play out. Kindness will go a long way to defuse a situation wherein an aggrieved party feels that they have been discriminated against while starting to build the essential rapport needed to accomplish all the previously mentioned steps.

In Case You Missed It...

September National Fair Housing Forum Materials Now Available

On September 15, 2021, NFHTA partnered with NFHA for a Fair Housing Forum on Strategies for Investigating Discriminatory Residential Appraisals. An insightful discussion with experts in the field covered the following topics:

  • Comprehensive overview of the legal standards for appraisal discrimination cases.
  • Identifying intentional and unintentional appraisal discrimination that occurs in the purchase, refinance, or sale of a home.
  • Building FHIP and FHAP investigators' capacity in investigating appraisal cases.
  • Reviewing existing conciliations and settlements.

We encourage you to have conversations within your agency on ways to prevent discriminatory foreclosures.

To build your capacity to address this critical issue, please enroll in a NFHTA instructor led course.

September Fair Housing Forum Recording

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

View the Forum Materials

Upcoming Events

Instructor Led Courses

Register Now | Basics of Fair Housing

November 1-4, 2021 | 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET

Register Now | Fundamentals of Fair Housing - Intake

December 6-9, 2021 | 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET

National Fair Housing Forums

Register Now | October National Fair Housing Forum

Fair Housing Tools to Combat Housing-Related Harassment and Hate Crimes Against the AANHPI Community

September 15, 2021 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET

Register Now | November National Fair Housing Forum

Strategies for LGBTQI+ and Gender Identity Housing Discrimination Investigations

November 17, 2021 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET

Academy Event Calendar

Are you interested in learning more about what 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.

View the full Academy Calendar