Fair Housing in Every Department
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights and local agencies in Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis have the power to enforce laws forbidding discrimination within their boundaries. Each agency has distinct investigatory and enforcement functions. These agencies must agressively investigate claims of discrimination. It is also important for cities and counties to support these agencies financially and administratively so that they can carry out their work. See our Links section under "Government Resources" for links to each agency.
Public Leadership and Human Rights Commissions
Mayors, council members, county board leaders, and school leaders can lead with values, analysis and policies. A number of cities have volunteer Human Rights Commissions which can play leading roles in public education, policy development and alternative dispute resolution.
Public Housing Agencies and Housing Redevelopment Agencies
PHAs and HRAs aim to provide equal housing opportunity in daily operations of housing for low income, elderly and disabled persons. This goal is best attained not only through day-to-day operations that avoid discrimination and make accommodations, but also when development decisions and program policies maximize use of resources to provide quality housing in integrated environments. See our Links page under "Housing Authorities" for more information.
Planning, Community Development and Code Enforcement Agencies
Cities, counties and Minnesota agencies that receive certain HUD funds must develop Consolidated Plans (Con Plans) that explain how the federal dollars are spent in a coordinated and effective manner. A necessary building block for the Con Plan is a comprehensive and regularly-updated Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing (AI). Public officials must, in order to properly take and spend federal money, certify that their activities affirmatively further fair housing and are consistent with their AI. HUD's Fair Housing Planning Guide sets out how best to accomplish these tasks.
Housing and Economic Development
The staff at these agencies help communities' political leaders decide on what, how and where to spend public funds. They also have significant influence over private and non-profit parties that are building and demolishing homes, creating new developments and allocating resources.
Revitalization plans can be created and implemented in a manner that increases housing segregation - and risks claims of discrimination - or plans can mitigate displacement and create new opportunities for integrated housing.
In the metro area, cities must regularly update local Comprehensive Plans (Comp Plans) that include land use and affordable housing variables, for the Metropolitan Council. The scope of a Comp Plan extends beyond housing but it must include information about how cities plan to meet a share of the region's full range of housing needs in coming decades.
Land use decisions rest in the hands of local authorities. Restrictions on the construction and use of dwellings that keep out or significantly restrict the choice of housing for groups of disadvantaged people have resulted in fair housing litigation.
Examples of such restrictions include rules that unreasonably limit group homes for persons with disabilities or restrictions on construction of affordable multi-family rental housing that would likely give people of color a chance to live in previously segregated areas. (The effects of zoning and land use should be analyzed in the AI.)
Land use decisions can also tip the scales against environmental justice if dangerous developments are permitted primarily in areas where people of color reside.
Design & Construction and Code Enforcement
Local agencies approve plans before new housing construction starts. Minnesota and federal law require that most new multifamily homes must meet seven basic accessibility features. Inspectors should highlight review of accessibility features of building codes in order to make housing accessible to people with disabilities. See HUD's Accessibility First website for more information on required accessibility features.
Housing inspectors have frequent contact with people of color, new immigrants and people with disabilities who live in homes with code violations. A careful balance of code enforcement that ensures tenant safety and does not result in wholesale displacement of disadvantaged residents is required. Recent litigation by local landlords alleges that too-strict code enforcement violated fair housing laws because of the resulting losses of housing for people of color.
Additionally, residents whose compliance with housing codes is impaired because of disability are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the enforcement process.
Social Services and Health
Social service and health providers are in frequent contact with people facing housing crises. The rights of people with disabilities to obtain reasonable accommodations and modifications in housing can be used to obtain or preserve housing for many disadvantaged individuals.
Discriminatory practices that keep persons homeless or in dangerous homes should be identified and those clients provided with information and referrals. Staff members should challenge discriminatory actions and policies. Agency contracts with housing providers should have those contractors adopt fair housing policies and make fair housing compliance a performance feature.
Civil rights and justice are taught in most schools. Fair housing in Minnesota can be incorporated into schools' curricula. School boundary lines can be drawn in ways that reinforce educational and residential segregation or in ways that promote integration. School leaders should engage other community and political leaders to address the effects of housing policies on racial and economic integration of schools.
Transit, Streets, Parks, Fire and Other Services
Allocation of these services can determine the quality, safety, value, costs and benefits of homes in our communities. Are some neighborhoods' streets unpatched? Does transit by-pass some areas and are parks are abandoned in racially-identifiable areas? Fair housing principles demand that these questions be asked and that any inequities the answers reveal be addressed by responsible government agencies.