Fair housing workshops planned

The city of Ashland is cosponsoring three fair housing workshops this summer to try to reduce the high levels of discrimination against black and disabled people cited in a recent study.

The first workshop, designed for homeowners' associations and community managers, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, in the Medford City Council Chambers, 411 W. Eighth St.

The free workshop will explain how groups that govern community living areas can avoid discriminating against people living, or seeking to live, there. It is co-sponsored by the cities of Ashland and Medford and several other groups.

"It's important to remember that the Fair Housing Act applies not just to people looking at rentals, but also to people that are buying as well," said Brandon Goldman, a senior planner with the city of Ashland. "The more homeowners' associations can do to ensure that they've established rules that are consistent with the Fair Housing Act, the better it will be for the community as a whole."

State and federal fair housing laws prohibit discriminating against someone based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, familial status, national origin, marital status and source of income.

Later this summer, the city of Ashland will cosponsor a workshop for tenants and one for landlords, Goldman said.

After the results of a study conducted in Ashland by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon were announced to the public in April, Mayor John Stromberg called on residents to learn about fair housing laws and report discrimination.

The study, commissioned by the city, showed a "shockingly high rate of discrimination" against blacks seeking to rent housing in Ashland. The report found that six of nine landlords expressed racial bias when showing a rental to a black tester.

Researchers also found that three of seven testers with children and three of seven with disabilities, or about 43 percent in each category, received discriminatory treatment.

The housing council and the Oregon chapter of the Community Associations Institute will provide instruction at the workshop, which is open to all Jackson County residents.

Homeowners' associations or community management groups sometimes discriminate unknowingly, oftentimes through advertising, Goldman said. Tuesday's workshop will address appropriate ways to advertise available properties.

For example, only developments that are registered as senior living areas should advertise as "active adult communities," in order to avoid accusations of discriminating against families with children, Goldman said.

Homeowners' associations should not place religion-specific holiday décor in common areas, but should allow residents to display décor specific to a religion on their private property, he said.

"That religion example probably isn't so timely right now, but during the holidays, it probably comes up and it could make the homeowners' association and their board subject to lawsuits," he said.

In another example, a homeowners' association that prohibits parking bicycles in front yards could be seen as discriminating against people with children, Goldman said.

"This workshop is about making sure normal operating procedures that could be seen as discrimination are addressed at the front end to make sure discrimination doesn't happen," he said.

For more information on the workshop or to register, contact Linda Reid, the city's housing program specialist, at 541-552-2043.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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