On April 27, fair housing advocates, community members, government officials, and industry stakeholders gathered for Raleigh’s 15th Annual Fair Housing Conference, sponsored by the Fair Housing Project and the City’s Fair Housing Hearing Board.
This year’s conference, The 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act: Celebrating Our Past, Shaping Our Future, reflected on the past 50 years of fair housing enforcement and advocacy and examined the latest and most pressing fair housing issues we face today.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Fair Housing Act, which, as amended, prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. The Fair Housing Act applies to housing and related activities, including apartment and home rentals, real estate sales transactions, mortgage lending, and homeowners’ insurance.
The conference kicked off with a viewing of Seven Days, a short documentary examining the events of the seven days between the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, on April 4, 1968, and the passage of the Fair Housing Act, on April 11, 1986. The video is available to view here.
The conference presented two panel discussions, each with prominent local and national speakers. The first, Fighting the Good Fight: The First 50 Years of Fair Housing Advocacy, featured (1) Carlos Osegueda, Regional Director of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and (2) Brad Thompson, longtime Community Activist and a member of the original City of Raleigh’s Fair Housing Hearing Board. During the discussion, Mr. Osegueda presented data on fair housing complaints in the southeast U.S. and highlighting HUD’s recent enforcement work. Mr. Thompson reflected on his experiences with and observation of housing discrimination in Raleigh since before the passage of the Fair Housing Act, as well as providing a historical perspective on the evolution of housing segregation in the Raleigh area. Jack Holtzman, Co-Director of the Fair Housing Project and senior staff attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center, served as the moderator.
The second panel, Looking Forward: Expanding Fair Housing Advocacy, featured (1) Elizabeth Haddix, Executive Co-Director of the Julius Chambers Center for Civil Rights, and (2) Demetria McCain, President of the Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), in Dallas, Texas. Ms. Haddix discussed her experience litigating environmental justice and fair housing issues, as well as the intersection of housing, education, health, and transportation. Ms. McCain presented the ICP’s work related to helping individuals move to higher opportunity areas and the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that state and local governments and other HUD funded recipients affirmatively further fair housing. Both presenters emphasized the importance of community involvement and engagement to further fair housing and end racially segregated housing patterns. Sheryl Merritt, CEO of New Legacy Realty and President of the Triangle Board of Realists, served as the moderator.
The sold-out conference, attended by 225 people, also featured keynote speaker Dr. Eddie J. Glaude, Jr., chair of the Center for African-American Studies and the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Princeton University. Dr. Glaude’s impassioned address reminded the audience that in addition to continuing to fight overt discrimination, we must all confront our biases, both conscious and unconscious, that have permeated our everyday lives.
This year, Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Executive Director George Hausen presented the Fair Housing Project’s Stella J. Adams Fair Housing Advocate Award to the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities (Cedar Grove) for their work in cases involving civil rights, predatory lending, institutionalized discrimination and community economic development. This award is given each year by the Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid of North Carolina to a deserving individual or organization in recognition of their work and commitment to the fair housing and civil rights of North Carolinians. Mr. Hausen was joined by Stella Adams, a longtime fair housing and civil rights advocate who the award is named after, in presenting the award to Cedar Grove’s Vice President, Allan Parnell.
“This year, we reflected on the systemic and institutionalized forms of discrimination that necessitated the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act. But we also looked to the future and the strategies needed to continue working towards strong, diverse, and inclusive communities.” said Jeff Dillman, Co-Director of the Fair Housing Project.
“This year’s conference, honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act was a great success. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all the panelists and keynote speaker, Dr. Eddie Glaude, J.R., for their insightful and thought provoking presentations. We also thank our sponsors for their continued support of fair housing in the City of Raleigh. Certainly, we remain hopeful and inspired toward the next 50 years of fair housing advocacy,” said Yetunde Betty Andrews, Chair of the City of Raleigh Fair Housing Hearing Board.
This year’s conference was made possible by a large number of sponsors, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.