Season's Greetings from FHEO Leadership
As we close the door to one year and begin anew, I extend my sincerest appreciation for the important work that you do to advance civil rights. Despite personal and professional challenges, this year you have met people where they are, and you have offered hope to victims of housing discrimination. Our Nation is better because of the passion, commitment and professionalism you bring to this most noble of cause of fair housing.
As I reflect on your work this year, I am especially thankful for our work together through the National Fair Housing Training Academy. Over 600 individuals passed through the Academy’s 4-day, Instructor-Led courses on Basics of Fair Housing, Fundamentals of Intake, Fundamentals of FHAP Investigation, and Litigating Fair Housing Cases. I encourage you to continue sharing these courses with your colleagues who have not yet benefitted.
You (and over 3500 others) also engaged in conversations through the Academy’s National Fair Housing Forums on emerging fair housing topics of national importance. I’m heartened that NFHTA has covered topics like Strategies for LGBTQI+ and Gender Identity Housing Discrimination Investigations; Combating Housing-Related Harassment and Hate Crimes Against the AANHPI Community; and Post-COVID Mortgage Forbearance Options and Preventing Discriminatory Foreclosures.
Yet it’s not just that you engaged, it’s how you engaged. You showed up sharing your passion and experiences in this fight for housing equality. Your civil rights colleagues from HUD, state, local, and private fair housing organizations did the same. You grew partnerships, friendships, and an enriched fair housing community. This is how we will win the fight for housing equity.
And so, as we collectively look ahead with clear purpose, know that your HUD colleagues and I are on your team and in your corner.
Wishing you and yours the most peaceful holiday season and a safe and Happy New Year.
With great respect,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Meet the Faculty: Joshua Barr, Esq.
Joshua Barr is an Emmy award-winning transformational leader from South Carolina with an MBA and Juris Doctorate. The work of advancing housing and other civil rights opportunities is in Joshua’s blood as he is a descendent of enslaved Africans and understands first-hand the socio-economic challenges that still exist for marginalized communities and how those challenges affect the well-being of an entire community. He believes that true change must come from within and works tirelessly with organizations, communities, and individuals to help them improve from the inside out. Joshua is on the faculty for NFHTA’s Litigating Fair Housing Cases and Fundamentals of FHAP Investigation courses.
Let’s learn more about Joshua:
What brought you to fair housing work?
While living in Colombia, South America, I was doing community organizing and someone asked me why I was there doing this work versus being home doing similar work in my community. I took that conversation to heart and ended up moving back to the U.S. Upon returning, I worked at a private practice law firm. While I found some success in private practice, I realized that I was only making differences for individuals and wanted to broaden to more systemic work. It was then that I joined the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission as a staff attorney and ultimately became the Fair Housing Director.
What is the most satisfying part of being an instructor for NFHTA?
The most satisfying part is helping people see things from a different angle or point of view. Even when working with my NFHTA faculty colleagues, our methods and means for getting to the result aren’t always identical, despite moving toward the same goal. Learning from one another while helping others is a great feeling. I love when I connect with attendees after our course, assisting them in furthering their work to increase fair housing opportunities in their respective communities.
What is one piece of advice you have for a new practitioner working in fair housing?
The strongest piece of advice I can give is don’t just be happy doing this work; dig a little deeper into making the world a more inclusive place. For example, when I became a civil rights attorney, I thought I had my dream job. However, I soon realized that just investigating cases was not going to be enough to end housing violations and discrimination. I dug deeper into systemic work, making community connections to identify issues and organizing people to address issues before we began organizing to enact solutions. So many of these issues have been deeply ingrained in our society for generations. To truly make a change, we must expand beyond the investigation of individual discrimination cases. I don’t want to do civil rights work forever. Although I know that it is not possible in my lifetime, I hope that we reach a point as a society where we’ve eradicated the systemic issues of racism, and other discriminatory issues that continue to hold us back. We need to address these systemic barriers within communities by making changes to laws and policies!
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.
What is the most emergent issue that you see within fair housing and fair lending now?
Upending the consequential socioeconomic dynamics of housing is critical. Housing prices are going up and that’s pushing some people out and ushering other people in. We must insist that municipalities adopt inclusionary zoning practices to advance upward movement on the socioeconomic ladder. Along with that, we must ensure that developers who receive government tax credits and funding to build new construction multi-family housing be required to set aside a certain percentage for people with low income. People should be able to find quality affordable housing in the communities where they work.
Another step towards this upending would be prohibiting lawful source of income discrimination. Families ought to have the freedom to choose the community they want to live in and not be restricted by housing providers refusing to accept certain income sources. Where a person lives matters and the long-term positive impacts of housing location is especially evident in children. Collaborating with organizations that facilitate affordable homeownership advances the goal of moving up the socioeconomic ladder by creating both social and financial strength. It helps to create equity, therefore building generational wealth.
Finally, I think it’s crucial to advocate for Fair Chance ordinances to address the difficulties that a person’s criminal background has on their ability to find housing. This allows people to be looked at based on who they are, not on their criminal record. For strong communities, you must have stable housing. We cannot just keep striking at the surface; we need to get to the root - the socioeconomics of housing.
As a leader and voice in the FHAP community, what advice do you have to strengthen partnerships with FHIPs?
Teamwork makes the dream work! I say that because I was part of successes where partnerships were key. You cannot do this work alone. Martin Luther King, Jr. gets a lot of credit for the Civil Rights movement because he was a great organizer. His organization, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, partnered with other organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to bring about the changes that have impacted my life and the lives of people who look like me.
We must break out of this “Great Man/Great Woman” theory that one person comes along and changes things. It’s organization and teamwork that really brings about the change. I would say that if the mission of your organization, both on paper and in spirit, is to eliminate and prevent housing discrimination, you should be partnering with other organizations. When I was with a FHAP agency, we won a court case because of a FHIP that helped us do testing to identify discrimination with a landlord who had been screening out refugees and Muslims from renting his properties.
Dedicate time, people, resources, and money. We cannot be territorial and claim the flagship of being the only organization fighting for fair housing. We shouldn’t be competing, but rather collaborating with each other.
Maximizing Your NFHTA Course Experience
Raise your virtual hand if you have taken any of NFHTA’s instructor-led courses! If you have, you already know that they are rich in information, engagement, and networking opportunities with your fair housing colleagues across the country.
In addition to the course facilitation, there are opportunities before and after every day of instruction for 30 minutes of networking and Q&A.
Below are tips for you to use in 2022 as you continue to grow your fair housing knowledge and experience by maximizing your virtual classroom learning experiences.
In Case You Missed It...
October and November National Fair Housing Forum Materials Now Available
Strategies for LGBTQI+ and Gender Identity Housing Discrimination Investigations – November 17, 2021
This forum outlined how sexual orientation and gender identity are covered by the Fair Housing Act, establish what constitutes a prima facie case of discrimination, provide some training to improve cultural competency in this field, and specify testing and investigative tools that may be utilized to investigate cases that allege discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.View the Forum Materials
Instructor Led Courses
Stay tuned for when the 2022 Academy Course Calendar is announced!