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Symposium Sparks New Interest on Fair Housing Issues

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Symposium Sparks New Interest on Fair Housing Issues

Social justice advocates, educators and students are provided knowledge and tools to address housing discrimination in DC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 18, 2013

CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Policy & Public Affairs Officer, 202.285.3348, elliot.imse@dc.gov

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – About 150 advocates, educators, students and property owners attended today’s 12th Annual Fair Housing Symposium, which aimed to provide individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary to incorporate housing discrimination issues into their existing work. The daylong symposium – a partnership between the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR), DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and The Equal Rights Center (ERC) – was unique in its focus on participants without much fair housing experience, instead of the experts talking to experts approach taken in previous years. Speakers included John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Vincent C. Gray, Mayor of the District of Columbia.

“The speakers today have explained how housing discrimination affects employment and educational opportunities, access to transportation, availability of healthy food, and so many other important aspects of daily life,” said Mayor Gray. “Now I urge you to take this knowledge and turn it into action. Whether you work for a developer, a bank, a university or an advocacy organization, I challenge you to find ways both small and large to include fair housing in your work.”

Workshop sessions included a review of the impact of housing discrimination on marginalized populations, an explanation of fair housing law and policies, and practical tools for embedding housing discrimination issues into broader social justice work. Tours of the Mt. Vernon and Shaw neighborhoods were also provided, so participants could better understand how fair housing issues influence actual development in the District. Participants also learned to refer incidents of housing discrimination to OHR.

“Our awareness campaigns and outreach efforts are all geared towards preventing housing discrimination and encouraging people to report it to our office when it occurs,” said OHR Director Gustavo Velasquez. “But we need community advocates to help us in this outreach, so those discriminated against know the District provides a cost-free process for seeking justice.”

To learn more about housing discrimination in the District and how to file a complaint, visit ohr.dc.gov/fairhousing.

This year’s symposium is sponsored in part by the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council.

 

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About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.