The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan nearly a half-million dollars in grants.
Under HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program, FHCWM was awarded a total of $425,000. The organization received an Education and Outreach Initiative grant worth $125,000 and a Private Enforcement Initiative grant worth $300,000.
EOIs are one-year grants and are awarded to organizations that educate the public and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under federal law. EOIs also can support state and local organizations that enforce fair housing laws equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act.
Liz Keegan, FHCWM director of education and outreach, said her organization provides education in the traditional K-12 classroom setting, as well as through workshops, conferences, written materials and PSAs.
“We try to get ahead and provide education to anyone who is a housing professional and information on housing rights to the general public,” she said.
The money from this EOI will benefit FHCWM’s recent efforts to raise awareness about disability-based discrimination in the housing industry.
“We went through a seven-year period where families with children were the most vulnerable people as far as fair housing,” Keegan said. “Our No. 1 basis is now people with disabilities. Prior to 2007, race was the biggest factor.”
The PEI is a three-year grant and provides funding to organizations that conduct fair housing enforcement initiatives, remediate fair housing issues and assist people who may suffer housing discrimination.
The money awarded through this grant will assist FHCWM in the enforcement aspect of its disability initiatives. Elizabeth Stoddard, FHCWM director of advocacy, said the organization focuses on reasonable accommodation in housing to give disabled persons equal opportunity.
“If somebody has a disability animal, and they live in a building that charges pet fees, they can ask for an accommodation to not pay that fee because it’s not a pet,” she said.
Another example she listed was if a person had low vision, they could ask for compensation to receive important documents in large print.
Stoddard said there also is an education component to FHCWM’s advocacy and enforcement programs, which involves educating the housing industry on anti-discriminatory practices.
The Fair Housing Initiatives Program is a competitive program where fair housing organizations submit grant proposals and are scored on the following criteria:
- Capacity of applicant and relevant organizational experience
- Need or extent of problem
- Soundness of approach
- Leveraging resources and developing partnerships
- Achieving results and program evaluation
Stoddard said FHCWM was awarded the maximum allotment for EOI and PEI. The organization serves 12 counties in West Michigan, including Kent, Allegan, Grand Traverse, Isabella, Ionia, Muskegon, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa.
In the state of Michigan, HUD awarded $1,856,682 in grants to five fair housing organizations. Nationally, the department awarded $37 million to 150 organizations.
“Ending housing discrimination is at the core of our mission at HUD,” said HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph Galvan. “This funding in Michigan will help support community-based organizations that are on the front lines in the fight for equity in our nation’s housing market.”
Other grant recipients in Michigan were Legal Services of Eastern Michigan, Community Action Agency, Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan and Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit.