On May 1, 2011, Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Fair Housing Project began work on a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish North Carolina’s only statewide full-serve fair housing organization. The Project will work in four main areas: offering legal representation to individuals who have been discriminated against; providing education and outreach on fair housing issues to residents, advocates and service providers throughout North Carolina; conducting research into fair housing and predatory lending; and conducting fair housing testing to determine possible discrimination based on race, disability, familial status, and other grounds.
The federal Fair Housing Act, as well as North Carolina law, prohibits the denial of housing to a person and other forms of housing discrimination based on the person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability.
The Fair Housing Project provides services to members of all protected classes, with special emphasis upon underserved areas and populations including immigrants; residents who are non-English speaking or have limited English proficiency; rural residents; persons with disabilities, with emphasis upon persons with HIV/AIDS; homeless individuals; and persons residing in areas with large concentrations of people of color.
The Project also distributes literature regarding the fair housing rights of North Carolina residents, in both English and Spanish[, with specific brochures for people with disabilities and those who are HIV-positive and/or people with AIDS. During 2012, the Project will also utilize local media to help distribute public service announcements (PSAs) to educate viewers and listeners about their fair housing rights.
Fair housing trainings and educational seminars conducted by the Project target renters and homebuyers; people with disabilities and their service providers; local governments, housing developers, property managers, and other housing providers; Spanish-speakers; and attorneys and housing professionals who represent individuals in mortgage and foreclosure-related matters.
As a part of Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), the Fair Housing Project provides legal representation, advice, referrals, and information to individuals statewide who have experienced housing discrimination. Legal services are provided both through local LANC offices as well as through the Project’s full-time staff.
The Project also conducts fair housing testing of the rental, sales, lending, and insurance markets in order to ascertain whether housing providers – including landlords, property managers, mortgage lenders, insurance agencies, and property developers and architects – are complying with federal and state laws regarding housing discrimination. Fair housing testing is conducted both in response to individual complaints by individuals who may have experienced housing discrimination as well as a part of systemic audits of geographic and other housing markets.
In addition, the Project is in the process of conducting research regarding a) whether specific multi-family housing complexes are constructed consistent with the design and construction guidelines of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and other federal and state accessibility standards and b) possible racial and ethnic disparities in mortgage lending and foreclosures.