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Fair Housing

​​​​​​​​​​​​Equal and free access to housing choice is fundamental to meeting essential needs and pursuing personal, educational, employment or other goals. If you believe you have been discriminated against, there are several organizations that can help you file and investigate a complaint.​

Fair Housing Laws

Because housing choice is so essential, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its amendments protect people from housing discrimination because of their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Family Status (having children or being pregnant)

Washington State Fair Housing laws also cover:

  • Marital status (being single, married or divorced)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Military or Veteran status

Together, we refer to all of these groups as "protected classes." Housing practices should not discriminate against or negatively affect these state and federal protected classes. 

If you believe you have been discriminated against, there are several organizations that can help you file and investigate a complaint.

Victims of domestic violence

On February 9, 2011, HUD issued a memorandum with clear guidance that "domestic violence survivors who are denied housing, evicted or deprived of assistance based on the violence in their homes may have a cause of action for sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act". Furthermore, the federal Violence Against Women Act provides that being a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault cannot be the basis of a lease violation or eviction.

Reasonable accommodations for a disability

If you have a disability, you also have the right to make reasonable modifications to your living environment at your own expense (for example, installing ramps or handrails) or request reasonable accommodations (for example, an assigned parking space or lower mailbox). The accommodation must be directly related to your disability. A landlord's refusal to allow reasonable accommodations or modifications can count as a form of housing discrimination.

Retaliation

Washington State law also protects people from retaliation in the event they do file a fair housing complaint. It is unlawful to harass, intimidate or punish someone who files a housing discrimination complaint or participates in an investigation. But don't wait: complaints must be made within one year of the violation! Contact the Washington State Human Rights Commission for more information (toll free at 1.800.233.3247).  

Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH)

The AFH is designed to identify fair housing issues in the community, determine the factors that significantly contribute to the identified issues, and develop a plan to overcome them. Many thanks to all who submitted a comment, completed a survey or attended the public hearing. All comments have been addressed within the final version of the AFH, which is available now. The public comment period is closed and the final version of the 2018-2022 Assessment of Fair Housing was accepted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on December 13, 2017.

The AFH looks at how our community is doing in carrying out fair housing practices. In addition to complying with the regulations, the Assessment of Fair Housing offers the opportunity to reconsider barriers to housing for protected classes of people, and set goals and strategies for reducing those barriers.

Although much of the data we use for the AFH is provided by HUD, the most valuable data is the kind that comes from living and working in Bellingham. Thank you to those of you who completed and/or shared the Fair Housing Survey that was open through June and July of 2017. Here is a brief synopsis of the survey results.