Monitoring the state of fair housing and identifying barriers to housing choice
We provide research services in order to survey housing practices, review the state of fair housing in our community and identify barriers to housing choice. The outcomes of our research services directly inform and guide our education and advocacy services in order to effectively and systematically address housing discrimination, thereby completing the spectrum of our proactive approach to fair housing. We conduct:
- Compliance and audit testing for property management companies, apartment complexes, real estate agencies, lending institutions and others, complete with analysis and recommendations
- Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing (AI) studies and reports for state and local governments in accordance with the requirements and guidelines of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Controlled survey testing utilizing volunteer testers to measure for differences in treatment within the housing industry
- Special projects and investigations regarding complex, systemic and/or specific fair housing issues or areas of the housing industry
- Data gathering, compilation and analysis related to fair housing
- Drafting and publication of reports regarding the state of fair housing within the community
- Tracking allegations of housing discrimination and identifying trends and patterns of housing discrimination
How it works
The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan remains committed to proactively identifying and addressing barriers to housing choice in order to prevent the continued insult of housing discrimination on our community, and to promote fair and equal access to housing. To that end, we work with housing providers, including property management companies, real estate agencies, lending institutions and other housing professionals, in order to provide internal audit services regarding fair housing practices. The audit services are jointly designed by the housing provider and the Center in order to survey the desired aspect of a housing transaction. All such services and their results are confidential and will not provide the basis for any enforcement action by the Center, unless otherwise agreed upon. Rather, the Center provides an analysis of the results, and compiles recommendations for best practices going forward. Internal audit testing is a great tool for housing providers wishing to ensure their compliance with fair housing laws, monitor the quality of their service, and commit to best practices.
The Center works with state and local goverments to complete fair housing studies required by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, including but not limited to, Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI). Since 2004, the Center has participated in the completion of four AI studies, including for the City of Wyoming, MI, the County of Kent, MI, the City of Grand Rapids, MI and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The AI process provided by the Center includes information gathered from facilitating community meetings, review and analysis of fair housing complaints and cases, review of demographic data, review of employment and transportation data, review of current housing, review and analysis of relevant public policies and institutional practices, analysis of relevant HMDA data, an Executive Summary and recommendations for how to remove said barriers to fair housing.
In addition to investigating actual complaints and allegations through its advocacy services, the Center actively monitors the nature and extent of existing housing discrimination through periodic market surveys. Since the year 2000, the Center has completed over 2,000 survey fair housing tests in order to monitor fair housing practices throughout the community and identify real or potential barriers to housing choice. Fair housing testing is a term used to describe the process of checking the housing market to determine the nature and extent of discriminatory treatment practiced against various homeseekers. Two or more individuals, similar in every respect other than the variable being tested, are sent to the same sales or rental office. Testers keep careful notes as to what transpires, and then record their experience on a standard report form. Difference in the treatment of testers often form the bases for successful resolution of a housing discrimination complaint.
The Center also actively undertakes special projects and issues reports pertaining to specific, systemic or endemic fair housing issues facing our community in order to develop a planned approach to remove the identifed barriers to housing choice. Such projects have involved discriminatory online advertising, fair housing issues facing Seniors in Kent County, among others. Please see Brochures and Publications for more information on the Center's reports and resources on these and others issues.