Thank you for covering the important issue of the challenges people face in the local rental housing market in your Dec. 13, 2018, issue ("The Housing Games"). There were several mentions in the article of housing practices that are, in fact, unlawful, such as landlords preferring "women over men, those with no children over parents, Caucasians over people of color," and a statement suggesting that most landlords refuse to rent to people with mental illness. The article, however, made no mention of the fact that these practices are illegal. Conspicuously absent was a discussion of the federal and state laws that protect housing seekers from discrimination or how to file a complaint — a missed opportunity to educate readers, as well as the student journalists who wrote the article.
The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Enacted one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and sometimes referred to as the "forgotten stepchild of civil rights," the Fair Housing Act protects people from being treated differently in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (having children) and disability. In California, people are also protected on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, marital status and source of income.
Unlawful housing discrimination can make an already extremely challenging housing search that much more difficult and discouraging, but it shouldn't be that way. Unfortunately, enforcement of the law is often left up to the people who face discrimination. If you think you may have faced illegal housing discrimination, call HUD's complaint hotline (800) 669-9777. More information and resources can be found at www.hud.gov/fairhousing and www.dfeh.ca.gov/Housing/.
Know and stand up for your fair housing rights!
Willa Darley Chapin, McKinleyville