On Tuesday night, Naperville’s City Council will proclaim April as Fair Housing Awareness Month. This local acknowledgement of a national event recognizes the anniversary of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, more commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act.
For the more than 60 percent of Naperville residents who had not been born when this federal law was enacted, a reasonable question might be “what’s the big deal?”
For the quarter or so of the population who experienced and might remember the social environment of that era, including peaceful demonstrations, marches, riots and destruction of entire neighborhoods, the significance might be a little clearer.
The federal law, as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. Title 10, Chapter 5 of the Naperville municipal code adds ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental handicap, military status, sexual orientation or legal source of income to this list.
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, more than 20 percent of Naperville residents are non-white. With about 52,000 housing units and more than 142,000 residents, there is a statistical probability that someone in our community is subject to housing discrimination based on one of these categories. Providing an awareness of individual rights when looking for a place to live does seem appropriate.
As some might know, I am a member of Naperville’s Fair Housing Advisory Commission. In my almost two years in this role, we have acted on only one complaint of alleged discrimination. While it would be easy to extrapolate this inaction into the belief there are no problems, this is probably naïve. Even one person on the receiving end of housing discrimination is one too many. We believe it is important that people understand their rights and the options they have if these rights are violated.
To help build this awareness of what housing discrimination is, and what to do if subject to it, the Fair Housing Advisory Commission has scheduled two information sessions in April. The commission is providing these sessions to educate the community on fair housing practices as well as inform the public of what to do if they feel they are being discriminated against by a landlord, property manager, real estate agent, home loan officer, housing developer or insurance agent regarding a housing-related transaction. As a corollary, landlords and sellers can come and learn what constitutes discrimination and how to avoid accusations of discriminatory behavior.
My compatriots on the commission will hold these sessions at 6 p.m. April 15 and noon April 16. Both will take place in the community room at Nichols Library, 200 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville. If you are looking to buy or rent, sell or lease, the information shared during these meetings can be very valuable.
For more information on Naperville’s Fair Housing Advisory Commission, as well as links to other fair housing resources, go to www.naperville.il.us/fhac.aspx.
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at email@example.com