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POV: Housing discrimination continues to happen – Grand Forks Herald

Each April we celebrate Fair Housing Month in honor of the Fair Housing Act which was passed on April 11, 1968. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race , color, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), national origin, religion, presence of children in the household, and physical or mental disability. North Dakota offers additional state protections regarding age, marital status, and receipt of public assistance.

Open, barrier-free housing helps expand social and economic opportunities for individuals and families, providing a pathway to better life outcomes and stronger communities for all. When fair housing laws are enforced, people have a choice of where they live and are not relegated to neighborhoods of concentrated poverty or limited access to the community.

High Plains Fair Housing Center is a statewide organization working to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunity. We help people who believe they have been discriminated against when trying to rent or buy a home. We investigate potential housing discrimination and provide community education to promote fair housing.

Over the past year, the High Plains Fair Housing Center has directly assisted over 190 individuals and families experiencing discrimination and over 80 households facing eviction. We were able to temporarily expand our mission in 2021 to address pandemic-related housing issues by helping select tenants obtain legal representation in select metro areas and helping clients access the Rent Help program statewide. We handled more than double the calls to our hotline last year compared to just two years ago. In 2019, High Plains FHC received 336 housing-related calls for the year. In 2020, we received 569 and last year we handled 766 housing-related calls at the Centre. Since our first year of federal grant funding in 2016, we have seen a steady increase in the total number of calls to our Intake Line as more people inquire about their right to fair housing and our organization, but the drastic increase in 2020 and 2021 echoes the growing crisis many in North Dakota face in both accessing and maintaining housing.

Complaints of housing discrimination to our center have increased over the two years of the pandemic. In 2019, High Plains processed 180 fair housing applications for the year, and this increased slightly in 2020 to just over 200. Last year fair housing related appeals increased significantly to over 320. Thus, despite existing laws, despite enforcement agencies and the ability of individuals to sue, housing discrimination continues to exist.

I hope you’ll join us in many of the Fair Housing Month events we have planned this month, including a free in-person and online event showing Jim Crow of the North on Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. Fargo Theatre. You can attend in person or online and register on our website or by emailing [email protected] If you think you or someone you know is experiencing housing discrimination, please call our Helpline at 701-203-1077 or fill out a form on our website at highplainsfhc.org.

Fair housing is your right. Ensuring fair housing in North Dakota strengthens our communities and ensures equal access to our communities for all of us.

Michelle Rydz is executive director of the High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks.