Ohio’s Fair Housing Efforts Are Making Progress
Ohio has been making great strides to support Fair Housing and eliminate discrimination within the real estate industry. Recently, cities throughout the state have begun working on two important initiatives that would be added to the Fair Housing Act. protection from income discrimination, or the denial of a tenant based on income source, and Fair Housing protections for the LGBTQ+ community are both being introduced into legislation. As a result, key cities within the state have the opportunity to set the new standard for equal housing.
Ohio’s Fight for Equal Housing
While not comparable to the levels of segregation in Southern states, segregation in Ohio is an ugly part of the state’s history. This discrimination bled into real estate, which resulted in Black individuals and families in the state being systemically barred from becoming homeowners or renting property. The state caught onto these discriminatory practices within the industry and enacted the Ohio Fair Housing Act in 1965, three years before the U.S. enacted the Fair Housing Act, to end discrimination in the industry and state. This legislation forbade racial discrimination - unless the owner also resided in the building or if the property only had one or two rental units. This change was late and incomplete, with the damage already negatively impacting Black Americans, but it does show Ohio’s awareness and readiness to enact changes for equality.
In 2016, the Federal Reserve reported that the average homeowner had a household wealth of $231,400 compared to the average renter having a household wealth of just $5,200. For most Americans, homeownership is the main factor in generating wealth over time. When individuals or families are denied this opportunity, their dreams of financial freedom and multi-generational wealth wither.
Fair Housing Protection: Income Discrimination
Cities like Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Akron are working within their city councils to approve legislation that would include protection from income discrimination. The focus here is to aid residents who rely on section 8 housing vouchers or other state/federal aid to pay rent and utilities by making it unlawful to deny potential tenants on this basis. This legislation would also help protect those who rely on child support, spousal support, or public assistance.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) housing voucher program has replaced many publicly-owned housing developments of the past that feel more like a scar of failed efforts. There have been a number of public housing properties that have been deteriorating and now fail standard inspections. However, this recent progress in legislation for extended fair housing protections is a positive sign for future endeavors.
The ordinance is expected to affect thousands of rental units in the capital city, opening up many neighborhoods that were previously off-limits.
Fair Housing Protection: LGBTQ+ Community
Across the Buckeye State, legislation is being added that aims to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in Ohio’s real estate industry. This move would add fair housing protections for the LGBTQ+community that are long overdue and give individuals of this community a fair shot at becoming homeowners. While this change has been needed for years, it’s not for lack of effort that it hasn’t yet come to fruition; this bill has been denied several times over the past 10 years, despite having public and business backing.
“We strive for inclusion, inclusion, inclusion,” Alex Cruz said, the national VP of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. “And [inclusion is] a great term, but there are times I don’t want inclusion; I don’t want to be a checkbox. I want to be welcomed.”
The Ohio REALTORS® Association has taken the first step in knocking down this barrier by partnering with the national LGBTQ+Real Estate Alliance on a memorandum of understanding.
“It’s all about awareness,” said Seth Task, president of the Ohio REALTORS®. “And the more we understand each other, the better we can get along. So, we’re going to continue to work hard.”
Licensed REALTORS® and sales agents have to take several hours of Fair Housing courses every three years as part of their Continuing Education requirements. REALTOR® Associations and LGBTQ+Alliances across the country are working hard to build awareness and education regarding the LGBTQ+community by integrating Fair Housing information into Continuing Education requirements to help put an end to this discrimination.
Take a Stand Against Housing Discrimination
As a responsible real estate agent, it is your duty to take a stand when you see unfair housing practices as they pertain to any ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation - even if that means walking away from a paycheck. When individuals come together as a group, they can pave a new way forward and change the standard, setting a new, more compassionate precedent. If you’re faced with a situation where a buyer or seller says they don’t want to work with someone based on their race, religion, country of origin, disability, or sexuality, you should push back, remind your clients of the Fair Housing Act, and flex your integrity.
If you witness housing discrimination, contact Ohio’s Fair Housing Centers to make a report. Fighting housing discrimination will take all of us, so don’t be afraid to do your part!