Interfaith Action Network Monthly
November 2019

Ready, Set, Action

November is a time to celebrate abundance and give thanks. At the Fair Housing Justice Center, abundance has taken the form of recent staffing increases, enabling us to help even more renters and home buyers exercise their civil rights. And we are thankful to all of our donors, friends, and partner organizations for joining us in the fight. Here’s a quick look at some of our recent activities, and some suggestions for ways to get involved.
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
  • This month’s book recommendation is actually a piece of long-form journalism from Mother Jones. Reporter Samantha Michaels takes a deep dive into “crime-free housing programs,” currently in use in more than 2,000 cities in 48 states. The article centers on the small city of Fairbault, Minnesota, where crime-free housing was adopted in 2014. Under these laws, landlords are held responsible for the disorderly conduct of their tenants and are encouraged to evict an entire household if a single member or guest is thought to be breaking the law. There is a strong incentive to pre-identify and deny housing to potential “problem tenants” whose behavior or appearance might make current tenants more likely to call the police. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with fair housing history that the shift in Fairbault’s housing laws coincided with a rapid increase in its Somali population in the aftermath of the Somali civil war. Michaels’s focus alternates between personal stories of tenants and landlords affected by these programs, and a broader look at the origins of the policy and its fraught history. The article’s very long title is Hundreds of Cities Have Adopted a New Strategy for Reducing Crime in Housing. Is it Making Neighborhoods Safer – or Whiter? Check it out HERE.
  • We hope you had a chance to read last month’s recommended book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. If you’re a podcast listener, you’ll be interested in author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s recent appearance on Why Is This Happening with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. (If you’re not yet a podcast listener, this is a great introduction!) The interview begins with a look at the coded phrase “inner-city,” and goes on to discuss how policies to promote Black homeownership in the wake of the Fair Housing Act backfired, leading to “predatory inclusion,” huge profits for the lending industry, and increased marginalization of African Americans. Listen HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts.

  • There’s been an update in a case involving disability discrimination in Adult Care Facilities (ACFs). On September 30, 2019 Federal District Judge Vernon S. Broderick denied a motion to dismiss in connection to a federal lawsuit filed by the FHJC and two individual plaintiffs alleging that the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and four ACFs discriminate against people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. Village Housing Development Fund; Elm York, LLC; Madison York Assisted Living Community, LLC; and Madison York Rego Park LLC, had sought to have the case dismissed, arguing, among other things, that FHJC lacked standing to bring claims and that subsequent amendments to state regulations rendered FHJC’s claims moot. In a lengthy and detailed opinion, Judge Broderick rejected these arguments, allowing the case to move forward. Read more about the decision HERE. Read about a previous injunction in the case HERE.
  • A big part of the FHJC’s success record is our relationship with some truly remarkable attorneys, and as our work expands, so does our need to connect with more attorneys committed to the struggle for housing fairness. On October 30th, CUNY School of Law hosted a training session for attorneys who are interested in representing FHJC clients with housing discrimination complaints. Attorneys Diane L. Houk of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP, and Mariann Wang of Cuti Hecker Wang joined FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg discussing fair housing laws, causes of action, evidence from undercover testing, and choice of forum and remedies. Participants posed probing questions, and expressed strong interest in future collaboration. Special thanks to Associate Dean of Student Affairs Rev. Dr. Yvette Wilson-Barnes and the whole CUNY Law team for hosting this special event.
Time to get out and advocate in your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
  • For several months, we’ve been reaching out with an appeal for public comments in response to the Trump administration’s attempt to undo key provisions of the Fair Housing Act. The department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed changes to the Act that would have a devastating effect on its enforcement. (Read more about the proposed changes HERE.) During the 60-day public comment period, fair housing organizations all over the country joined forces to raise awareness and drive comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. As part of a statewide New York Day of Action organized by the FHJC, our staff held a mid-day comment writing party, sharing their lunch break while writing and sending their individual public comments, posting on social media, and encouraging everyone in their networks to join the fight and leave their own comment. Our fellow NY organizations CNY Fair Housing, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Long Island Housing Services, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and Westchester Residential Opportunities also joined in the Day of Action. 
  • The comment period ended on October 18th, with comments totaling more than 45,000, and an overwhelming majority opposing the change! (By comparison, Obama-era proposals typically drew less than 3,000 comments.) Huge thanks to all of our friends and supporters who took the time to submit. Special shout-out to the Interfaith Action Network (and FHJC/Union Theological Seminary intern Nordia Bennet) for recognizing and communicating the moral dimension of this issue. Stay tuned for more organized advocacy, as we’re anticipating more attacks on fair housing enforcement. We are truly building our beloved community when we’re fighting for civil rights! 
Building the Beloved Community
Want to get involved in the Building the Beloved Community interfaith initiative in some other way? Below are some updates from our interfaith initiative.
  • We were thrilled to be a part of last month’s anti bias/anti violence summit 1619 – 2019: 400 Years of African American History – How Far Are We from Racial Equality? on Staten Island. The day may have been wet and dreary, but the event was filled with speeches, performances, workshops, and discussion of our most challenging social issues. Huge thanks to organizers Rev. Teri Troia and the teams at Project Hospitality and Communities United for Respect and Trust.
  • The Justice Ministries Committee of the New York City Presbytery has invited the FHJC to join with other local social justice organizations and leaders of the national Presbyterian Church (USA) to take part in an advocacy training day on Saturday November 16th. Becoming a Matthew 25 Church: Tools for Advocacy will be a day of worship and workshops focused on dismantling structural racism, eradicating systemic poverty, and working for social justice from a faith perspective. The event will take place at First Presbyterian Church near Union Square, and includes a “free-will offering” lunch. Admission is free, but please register HERE to help the organizers with their planning. We hope to see you there!

  • This newsletter is sent to all FHJC friends and supporters. If you are interested in hearing more about our work from a faith-based perspective, please consider joining the Interfaith Action Network, if you haven’t already done so.  The Interfaith Action Network is comprised of diverse religious congregations and faith communities, ordained clergy and lay leaders who share a commitment to fair housing and willingness to take action to address fair housing issues and concerns as they arise. Sign up for the Network HERE.
“When the Nation so urgently needs the healing balm of unity, a brutal wound on our conscience forces upon us all this question: What more can I do to achieve brotherhood and equality among all Americans?”

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to Speaker of the House John W. McCormack, April 5, 1968
Fair Housing Justice Center | 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite 302, Long Island City, NY 11101
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