If you manage, own, or live in one of the more than 16,000 rental units in Alhambra, the Housing Rights Center is one resource you should know about.
Too often, housing rights are ignored. “The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development says 83 percent of discrimination goes unreported,” said Marisol Arzate, the center’s director of outreach and education. “Discrimination more often occurs at a subtle level, a renter might be told there is nothing available, but an investigation shows there were units available.”
In Alhambra, the center's fair housing and counseling services include evictions, security deposits, rent increases, repairs, and lease/contract issues. During the past four years, the center has received 142 discrimination complaints from Alhambra residents. Physical disability discrimination complaints were the most frequent, comprising 37 percent of the total.
Since 2002, Alhambra has contracted with the center — the largest fair housing organization in the state — to investigate discrimination complaints and to provide residents with rental housing information via telephonic consultations with trained housing counselors as well as in-person counseling services. Counseling is provided in 10 languages, including American Sign Language. A walk-in clinic is held every Friday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Alhambra Civic Center Library.
In the past four years, there were 2,647 calls from city residents, according to the center. Latinos comprised 35 percent of Alhambra callers, Caucasians 20 percent, and Asians 22 percent. Of the inquiries, 18 percent were calls concerning notices (i.e. three-day notices to pay or quit, 30- or 60-day notices to vacate), 11 percent related to rent increases, and 13 percent were regarding issues related to security deposits.
In instances where housing accommodations may be necessary, it doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, a landlord may have a no-pet policy. However, for a sight-impaired tenant, the policy may be relaxed to allow for guide dogs. Or if the tenant has mobility issues, a tenant may request a parking space near an apartment be changed to a disabled parking spot. When an accommodation involves a change to the structure of the housing, such as grab bars, the cost of the change lies with the tenant, except in government owned housing. When they leave, the tenant must change the alterations back to the original condition and at their own expense if the change is within the rental unit.
Discrimination cases can be resolved in a number of ways. If the center’s investigation finds evidence of discrimination, the case is referred to their Litigation Department or the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) for further enforcement. How a case is resolved depends on what the complainant is seeking. For instance, if the complainant was originally refused a unit based on immigration status, then a resolution may allow the complainant to rent the unit. As needed, referrals to other agencies are provided. If an investigation reveals no evidence of discrimination, the center closes the case and the complainant has the option of pursuing their case though DFEH or a private attorney in the event that he or she would like to have the complaint investigated further.
Because Alhambra receives government funding for housing or community development, it is obligated to “affirmatively further fair housing.” To meet this requirement, some cities have their own housing outreach staffing, while others contract with an outside agencies, such as HRC, to fulfill the requirement to provide fair housing services to its residents. According to the city’s fiscal year 2009-2010 Draft Action Plan, the HRC contract with the city was valued at approximately $25,000.
Housing Rights Center | Toll free: 1-800-477-5977 | www.housingrightscenter.org