The FHCGB is the region's sole source of housing discrimination testing services. We use a paired testing method in which testers in each pair are matched according to personal and home-seeking characteristics, isolating the factor being tested. This controlled method of measuring and documenting variations in the treatment of home seekers by housing providers gives a compelling picture of how and if discrimination is in play. Municipalities, housing authorities, individuals, private developers, and lenders alike turn to the FHCGB to provide this valuable service. And the testing data allows people to prove their cases so that they have access to housing, or win significant settlements. Here is a typical story.
Jackson: "My son was getting older and my wife and I decided we needed more room for the family. So I applied for a two bedroom apartment at a real estate agency in the neighborhood. When the agent asked me if I had kids I told him I had a toddler. He told me right out that landlords won't deal with de-leading or children generally, so there wasn't much to show us. That didn't seem right to me, so I contacted the FHCGB. They did a test where they sent out couples to this same agent Ð one with children and one without, and also a black and a white couple. And they found that the agent was discriminating on the basis of what they call "family status," basically because I have a child. And they also found race discrimination. We were stunned! I'm not big on lawsuits, but that made my blood boil. At least FHCGB got the evidence I needed to sue. Thankfully, we didn't have to. FHCGB helped negotiate a settlement instead and the guy at the rental agency has to pay to go through training on fair housing laws. I'm really grateful for the help of the FHCGB. Raising a family is hard enough without having to deal with that kind of roadblock finding the right place to live."
In addition to individual cases, FHCGB uses testing to uncover systemic discrimination within particular regions, on a particular prohibited basis, in a specific industry, etc. These data support high impact, systemic litigation. Testing is also a useful tool for the housing industry (i.e. developers, banks, real estate agencies) to police itself and identify areas in which it can proactively address discriminatory practices.
Click here if you are interested in becoming a tester.
The FHCGB is the region's only case advocacy service provider focused exclusively on housing discrimination. We field hundreds of inquires and complaints each year from people without the knowledge and/or means to advocate for themselves. If we suspect discrimination, the FHCGB offers full case advocacy services, including testing for proof of discrimination, representing the complainant throughout HUD's or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination's (MCAD) administrative processes, and securing pro bono legal counsel if litigation is required.
Karen: "I've been renting a condo for my two girls and myself. I'm disabled so I have a Section 8 housing voucher to help pay rent. My landlord, the condo owner, is great. But my neighbors in the complex have been really tough and they've been getting the condo association after me. They keep asking my landlord to evict me because they hear my three-year-old daughter cry when I have to give her insulin injections, and they can hear me in the summer with the windows open (If I could afford the air conditioners I would! But IÔve got to live within my budget!). Also my car leaked one time. Some of my neighbors have been picking up trash from the lawn and leaving it outside my door, banging on it at odd hours. It's awful. No one here has children except one tenant, but she works so they don't have a problem with her. One of my neighbors actually said my renting here devalued their property, and I should move because it was a professional building and I'm not able to work.
Thank God I got connected to the FHCGB! They listened to my whole story and documented all the facts including that none of the owners had children and that I was the only tenant with a housing subsidy. They explained the fair housing laws, what all my options were and helped me file a discrimination complaint based on "familial status and source of income." They referred me to my attorney Silvia, helped her get some of the information she needed, and they kept following my case and helping it along for a year and a half. In the end my attorney negotiated a $10,000 settlement from the condo association for me and my girls. It's a huge help for my family, and should make them think twice about acting that way again."