Festival organizers aim to spread word on fair housing
When the city threatened to turn off the taps at various mobile home parks after the landlord accumulated thousands of dollars of unpaid water bills last September, Kay Macuil jumped on the phone trying to find new homes in case these families were displaced.
The crisis was averted when the landlord paid the bills, but Macuil, managing attorney at Community Legal Services, got a firsthand taste of housing discrimination in Yuma.
“I called around trying to find housing and I was quoted higher prices for families with kids.”
Charging higher rent for families with children is against the law. The Fair Housing Act prohibits intimidation and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, religion and familial status.
“From what I read, there are a lot of instances in our area where landlords are not familiar with the Fair Housing Act. They don't discriminate on purpose, they just don't know they can't do that,” said Thomas Ryan, asset developer and grant writer for Western Arizona Council of Governments (WACOG).
To educate the public and housing providers, WACOG, Community Legal Services, Southwest Fair Housing Council, Yuma County and the city of Yuma and its Housing Authority are coming together to present the Yuma Housing Festival on April 14, in honor of Fair Housing Month. It will be held at the parking lot of the city's Housing Authority, 420 S. Madison Ave., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“This year we are sending a special invitation ... to landlords, lenders, real estate agents and other housing providers to come and ask questions about the Fair Housing Act or to clarify doubts they may have on what practices could be considered discriminatory,” Ryan said.
“People might assume it's only for low income, but it's for everyone.”
Most recently, the Fair Housing Act was amended to include handicap and familial status as protected classes. It also covers dealings with entities such as lenders, real estate agents and the government. It covers any housing meant to be a residential home, including mobile homes, apartments or any part of a building.
At the event, the public will be able to speak with dozens of housing and nonprofit entities about resources available to them and also complete applications for their services.
The free family-oriented event will have food, games and raffle drawings. Macuil hopes families will enjoy the carnival-like ambience.
A student poster contest was also held to highlight fair housing. This year the theme was “Won't You Be My Neighbor?” The winners will receive prizes.
For more information, call Community Legal Services at 782-7511.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.