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FAIR HOUSING GROUPS FILE COMPLAINTS OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON LEAD PAINT

September 28, 2016 – Worcester, Massachusetts. 
Contact: Maureen St. Cyr, Staff Attorney
Phone: (508) 425-2787
 
Five fair housing groups across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—Community Legal Aid, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, SouthCoast Fair Housing, and Suffolk University’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program—have either brought complaints at or referred cases to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) alleging that testing has revealed that landlords across the state have refused to rent to families with children due to lead paint.
Both federal and state law prohibit discrimination against families with children, including refusing to rent to families with children under the age of six. Massachusetts law specifically prohibits denying housing to families with children under six because of the presence of lead paint. CLA, MFHC, FHCGB, SCFH, and HDTP work to identify housing discrimination across the Commonwealth and to enforce fair housing laws and are supported in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) grants.
Denying families with children access to housing is a widespread, recurring issue in Massachusetts, where two-thirds of homes were built before 1978 when lead paint was first banned for residential use. As of the date of this press release, Suffolk University Law School’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP) has conducted 120 familial status tests (these familial status tests include profiles with children under and over the age of six). Out of the 120 tests, evidence of discrimination was found in 58.3% of them. Twenty-eight percent of the familial status tests conducted resulted in inconclusive findings, for various reasons, and only 13% of the tests yielded no evidence of discrimination. 
HDTP’s test results and the volume of discrimination complaints received by all five fair housing organizations demonstrate that the problem of familial status discrimination is significant and must be addressed now. The impact this discrimination has on families is profound.  One MFHC client who attempted to secure housing with her husband and three-year-old stated, “Because of the discrimination against our family, it took us nearly six months and one illegal eviction before we could find a safe home.  As a mother with a toddler and another baby on the way, not being able to provide a home for my children due to discrimination was devastating.”  
The complaints filed by the four fair housing groups and the referrals made to the MCAD by Suffolk Law School represent a shared effort to impress upon landlords that the discrimination must stop so that all residents of Massachusetts can access housing without fear of discrimination based on familial status.   
Financial assistance is available for landlords who need to delead: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/environmental-hea...
 
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS
 
Community Legal Aid helps the low-income and elderly residents of Central and Western Massachusetts vindicate their most fundamental civil legal rights. As part of its far-reaching housing and homelessness prevention work, CLA receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to engage in vigorous fair housing enforcement, and its HUD-supported work has helped many hundreds of households in Central Mass. challenge unlawful discrimination in the rental housing market and obtain the housing of their choice. Residents of Worcester County who are interested in speaking to a lawyer about their rights under state and federal fair housing laws can call (800) 752-3718, TTY 508-755-3260 or visit the office at 405 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01068.
The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center has been in the forefront of the effort to eliminate housing discrimination and affirmatively further fair housing in Western and Central Massachusetts for over 27 years.  MFHC engages in extensive educational activities to inform the public about the right to equal housing opportunities.  When an individual suspects housing discrimination, MFHC will counsel the individual, investigate the complaint, and, in appropriate cases, provide free legal representation.  MFHC’s legal advocacy helps to promote housing choice, preserve tenancies, avoid homelessness, create lead-safe housing for children, and provide disabled tenants with equal access to housing.  MFHC’s work is made possible by two grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP).  
Suffolk University Law’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP) is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to work towards eliminating housing discrimination in the Boston metro area through testing, enforcement, education and academic study. The HDTP studies trends in discrimination, provides important testing evidence where individuals suspect they have been victims of discrimination, represents victims of discrimination in enforcement matters, educates the community about their rights and responsibilities in the rental housing market, conducts academic studies relating to housing discrimination and educates the next generation of civil rights lawyers. If you or anyone you know thinks they may have been discriminated against, feel free to call Suffolk’s intake line at (617) 884-7568.
SouthCoast Fair Housing (SCFH) works to eradicate housing discrimination and increase equal housing opportunities in Bristol and Plymouth Counties by providing fair housing education and enforcement services. For more information or if you think you may have experienced housing discrimination, visit southcoastfairhousing.org or call (774) 473-8333. 
The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston (FHCGB) was incorporated in September 1998 as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and is the only full-service fair housing center in Eastern Massachusetts. FHCGB’s office is centrally located in its service area at 100 Terrace Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The FHCGB’s mission is to eliminate housing discrimination and promote open communities throughout the Eastern Massachusetts counties of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk. FHCGB pursues its mission through 7 program areas: testing, enforcement and compliance, case advocacy, education and training, community outreach, public policy advocacy (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing/Assessments of Fair Housing), and research (fair housing audits, affordable housing, zoning). All staff members work at FHCGB’s office in Boston, Massachusetts located at 100 Terrace Street. The FHCGB participates in five national fair housing list-serves (HUD, NCRC, NFHA, NLIHC and the National Fair Housing List Serve) as well as five local list-serves (MAAPL, BTC, ARE, Massachusetts Fair Housing Coalition and the Fair Housing Network) to keep up on fair housing current events. Anyone wishing to file a complaint may do so through our website, calling us directly at 617-427-9740 or making an appointment for a formal intake.
Disclaimer:  Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.