When will Cleveland make fair housing a priority?

One of the most common forms of housing discrimination happens with a smile and handshake. In other words, residents may have no idea they’ve been treated unfairly.

On a daily basis, people experiencing housing discrimination contact us at Cleveland’s Housing Research & Advocacy Center. When I began working as an investigator two years ago, I didn’t think that, in 2015, landlords and housing providers would regularly break fair housing laws. I quickly learned housing discrimination today tends to be more covert and insidious than in past decades, which often makes it harder to detect.

Our agency receives calls from single mothers denied housing because they have children; persons of color harassed by a landlord; and tenants denied wheelchair access or a service animal. Once a complaint comes in, we work with tenants and landlords to resolve the issue, or refer the case to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Stable housing is like an anchor for a ship at sea, a vaccine that protects us against life’s stumbling blocks. Where we live largely determines our access to education, employment and healthcare.

What we’re up against in Cleveland is a deeply entrenched history of segregation and redlining that continues to drive racial and socioeconomic inequality. Driving east to west across the city provides an illustration of the way systemic policies devastated Black and Brown communities from one generation to the next. The stark contrast in resources between adjacent blocks and ZIP codes is evidence of the Federal Housing Administration’s historic role in supporting some neighborhoods while stifling others.

Now is the time – as community development corporations, neighborhood revitalization efforts and block clubs spring to action – to engage in uncomfortable conversations about race, equity and access. Cleveland has a critical choice: address inequities or go through another cycle of housing injustice.

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