County Pushes Sensationalist and False Narratives on Race, Housing

Segregation in Housing was Outlawed 53 Years Ago with Fair Housing Act

 

 

A pair of county events in November pushed sensationalist rhetoric in regards to race and housing more relevant to the Prince William County of 1961 than 2021.

On November 3rd, Prince William County in partnership with the Metro Washington Council of Governments invited residents to participate in what they called a community forum on housing issues important to you and your community. The first issue listed, as seen below, was “Racial and ethnic segregation in access to housing.”

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law, including Titles VIII and IX, also known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The Fair Housing Act introduced meaningful federal enforcement mechanisms to end racial segregation in housing.

It outlawed:

  • Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • Discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in the terms, conditions or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
  • Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
  • Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person’s enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.

Individuals who believe they have experienced housing discrimination can file a complaint with FHEO at no charge. FHEO funds and has working agreements with many state and local governmental agencies where “substantially equivalent” fair housing laws are in place. Under these agreements, FHEO refers complaints to the state or locality where the alleged incident occurred, and those agencies investigate and process the case instead of FHEO.

However, victims of housing discrimination need not go through HUD or any other governmental agency to pursue their rights. The Fair Housing Act confers jurisdiction to hear cases on federal district courts. The United States Department of Justice also has jurisdiction to file cases on behalf of the United States where there is a pattern and practice of discrimination or where HUD has found discrimination in a case and either party elects to go to federal court instead of continuing in the HUD administrative process.

The federal government has passed other initiatives in addition to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 and Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 helped with discrimination in mortgage lending and lenders’ problems with credit needs. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 was passed to give the federal government the power to enforce the original Fair Housing Act to correct past problems with enforcement. The amendment established a system of administrative law judges to hear cases brought to them by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and to levy fines. Because of the relationship between housing discrimination cases and private agencies, the federal government passed the two initiatives. The Fair Housing Assistance Program of 1984 was passed to assist public agencies with processing complaints, and the Fair Housing Initiatives program of 1986 supported private and public fair housing agencies in their activities, such as auditing. Between 1990 and 2001, these two programs have resulted in over one thousand housing discrimination lawsuits and over $155 million in financial recovery.

Per the Prince William County website, “Prince William County is obligated under various laws not to discriminate in housing or services directly or indirectly on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, or disability. In addition Prince William county must comply with civil rights-related program requirements that affect nearly every aspect of each program. HUD’s non-discrimination requirements are compiled from several different federal laws designed to protect each individual’s right to fair housing and equal opportunity.”

Prince William County government continued down this path just a few weeks later during a virtual seminar hosted by the Prince William County Department of Economic Development on November 18th titled “The New Frontier: Investment & Growth in Prince William County. How Inclusive Housing Spurs Economic Growth.”

Despite the innocuous sounding title, Brian Koziol of the Virginia Housing Alliance was allowed to assume and state as fact that people who oppose higher levels of residential housing density is due to “otherism”. The assumption propagated as fact with the tax dollars of Prince William County residents claims that a citizen’s support for zoning laws, even those that could be sensible, is merely a cover for racism in action.

Koziol also claimed that he believes land use decisions and zoning changes may be too public and provide too much opportunity for citizens to have a say in the actions their government takes.

Finally, Chris Thompson, Director of Strategic Housing for the Virginia Housing Development Authority mentioned the availability of anecdotal stories to “spin” resident concerns over traffic, schools, and the environment “in a much different way.”

The demeaning, false, and condescending rhetoric and narrative of the seminar expressed as fact and funded by the taxpayers of Prince William County has been turbocharged by Prince William County government recently over the opposition of its citizens as debate over development of the Rural Crescent has been pushed by the county’s board majority. One Coles District constituent recently called the strategy, “sit down, shut up, or we’ll label you a racist.”

Strangely enough, the trio admitted that in neighborhoods where “Affordable Housing” exists that home values have continued to increase, puncturing a hole in the affordable housing argument.

 

– Coles District Staff

 

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