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COVID and the Eviction Moratorium

As NFHTA faculty, we have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the inequities in housing. Through our instructor led courses, we empower FHIP and FHAP staff to take well-informed actions to address the concerns of aggrieved parties – but there is much more that is needed in response to this critical time.

To continue to provide relief to housing consumers, an extension to the federal eviction moratorium was announced on March 29, 2021. Unfortunately, FHIP and FHAP staff are seeing instances of housing providers discriminating against tenants, rendering the most vulnerable of our nation even more powerless. Housing providers are feeling the impact of the crisis too. A recent Urban Institute study found that almost half of rental units are single family or 2-to-4-unit buildings, many of which are owned by smaller businesses, who do not have quick access to additional credit or funding.

The national moratorium led to a decrease of an estimated 1.55 million eviction cases last year, but uncertainty is still present. On May 5, a federal judge found that the moratorium lacked legal authority. As members of the fair housing community, we must empower ourselves to be of assistance to those impacted by the pandemic. Additional resources for our partners can be found on HUD’s Coronavirus Resources page and on the National Housing Law Project website. Be aware of local COVID aid programs, such as emergency rental and utility assistance.

Conciliation is a tool we can all use to bring resolution to the aggrieved parties we encounter. Check out the Pro Tips section below for additional information to bring empowerment during a time of crises.

Register Today | On the Brink: The Looming Eviction Crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Join the National Fair Housing Training Academy (NFHTA) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in a conversation focusing on the impact of the eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This forum will contain information about housing assistance programs that may help prevent eviction, specify how eviction could be a fair housing violation, and provide resources and tools that fair housing practitioners, attorneys, and housing counselors can utilize to combat evictions that violate the Fair Housing Act.

Note: NFHTA’s July National Fair Housing Forum will address the pending foreclosure crisis.

Meet the Faculty: Steve Tomkowiak

Meet the Faculty: Steve Tomkowiak, Esq.

Mr. Tomkowiak has been a steadfast advocate of fair housing. He has walked the walk as a fair housing litigator and has transferred his knowledge and experience to the hundreds of fair housing practitioners that he has trained and coached. He leverages his experience for the content development and delivery of NFHTA’s Litigating Fair Housing Cases course.

Q&A with Steve:

What is one piece of advice you have for a new practitioner working in fair housing?

New or old, practitioners should spend at least a few hours each week to read and stay abreast of new developments in fair housing. It is a very important habit to develop early in one’s career.

What is the most emergent issue that you see within fair housing and fair lending now?

Some of the most prominent issues that I see in my community are the need for source of income protections, implementing the new or renewed affirmative furthering fair housing (AFFH) requirement, and taking meaningful steps to address the crisis in the lack of affordable housing. As to fair lending, consumers need training in all aspects of financial management so that instances of lending discrimination or predatory lending will be more readily recognized.

As a leader and voice in the FHIP community, what advice do you have to strengthen partnerships with FHAPs?

Greater communication and teamwork. This begins by acknowledging our shared goals: fair housing compliance and enforcement. Communities achieving the greatest success in fair housing are communities where the FHIP and FHAP offices work together.

Learn more about Steve
Pro Tips for FHIPs and FHAPs

Effective Conciliation Techniques

As tenants face the possible end of the eviction moratorium, we anticipate an increase in fair housing inquiries and complaints coming to FHIP and FHAP agencies. One of the most powerful tools to resolve those complaints is conciliation – FHIP or FHAP staff mediating between the fair housing complainant and respondent, with the intent of a formalized and documented resolution to the complaint. For this month’s Pro Tip, we examine some of the pain points that you may encounter during conciliation.

  • Public Interest Provisions
    As FHIP and FHAP staff navigate through proposed conciliation terms, we must include effective methods that will correct discriminatory behavior and/or policy, that will also impose a duty for future compliance with the Fair Housing Act. An effective conciliation must include terms to eliminate discriminatory housing practices. Conciliations need to prevent future discriminatory housing practices, while offering remedial affirmative activities to overcome discriminatory housing practices. Monitor the agreement's terms by building in reporting requirements and enforcement activities.
  • Know Your Role
    FHIP and FHAP staff are often involved in investigating and conciliating a case at the same time. It is important to clearly delineate the role you are playing at a given time. Explaining the process to complainants, aggrieved parties, and the respondent prior to each contact will provide clarity. Do not commingle notes regarding investigation and conciliation. If your agency has the resources, consider one staff member handling the investigation, with another spearheading conciliation efforts.
  • Know Your Resources
    HUD offers robust guidance on conciliation, such as the Chapter 11 of the Title VIII Complaint Intake, Investigation, and Conciliation Handbook. Consider sending staff to train on mediation, conciliation, and alternative dispute resolution techniques. If feasible, shadow mediation staff to gain on the job experience on the process.
In case you missed it....

May National Fair Housing Forums Now Available

On May 19, 2021, NFHTA convened its second National Fair Housing Forum of 2021, which focused on the growing concern of bias in home appraisals. An insightful discussion with experts in the field covered the following topics:

  • The history of appraisal valuations in communities of color and its impact on those residents and communities.
  • Fair Housing Act’s provisions for non-discriminatory appraisals of dwellings.
  • How discrimination may occur in the appraisal valuation process.
  • Impact of discriminatory appraisals on generational wealth.
  • Methods to challenge a discriminatory appraisal.
A recording of the event, along with an updated list of resources including a job aid, is now available.

We encourage you to have conversations within your agencies on ways to address and investigate biased home appraisals. To build your capacity to address this critical issue, please enroll in a Fundamentals of Fair Housing course.

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This material is based upon work supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. Neither the United States Government, nor any of its employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately-owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Government or any agency thereof. Opinions expressed on the HUD Exchange are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, HUD or by any HUD program.