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Tackling systemic racism and eliminating housing discrimination in the US

Housing and Homelessness Programme / Partner story

© National Fair Housing Alliance

Like many others in the sector, we were deeply moved by the response to the murder of George Floyd and the attention paid to the Black Lives Matter movement. Tackling systemic racism continues to inform our grantmaking portfolio. We are proud to fund Ujima in Boston, which provides loans to businesses owned by people of colour, thus addressing inequality. Ujima members include business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs who are committed to advancing social and economic justice through the private sector. Ujima businesses align their corporate practices with their values, by creating good jobs, sharing ownership and wealth, meeting local needs, and generating community benefits.

We also provide core support to the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), a national organisation headquartered in Washington DC, with over 200 member organisations across the country in 40 states. NFHA is the voice of fair housing and works to eliminate housing discrimination to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.

In one successful win, NFHA and two local fair housing groups filed a lawsuit challenging the policy of Asset Campus Housing Inc., one of the largest property management companies in the US, which discriminated against families with children. This was done on behalf of students like Maya, a single mother, and her two-year old daughter, Aaliyah. Maya, a student of psychology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, was a tenant of Asset Campus Housing. One day, she received a call from her landlord stating that due to single occupancy regulations, she would have to obtain a separate lease for two-year old Aaliyah. Instead of living together in a large one-bedroom unit under one lease, there had to be two separate leases for both mother and child in order to be able to stay in the unit – one in Maya’s name and the other in Aaliyah’s name – thus doubling the rent.

For two years, Maya worked two and sometimes even three jobs to try to make ends meet. Inevitably, the double rent proved too much. She eventually had to drop out of school and forego the college degree she hoped would enable her to provide a better life for Aaliyah.

Indeed, without stable housing, it is almost impossible for single parents on low income to successfully attend school. That is why Maya, NFHA, and two local fair housing groups filed a lawsuit challenging Asset Campus Housing’s policy that discriminated against families with children.

In March 2020, NFHA announced a settlement agreement with Asset Campus Housing, Inc., eliminating the policy throughout the country and providing relief to Maya and Aaliyah. The resolution of this case resulted in providing families with children access to 140,000 beds throughout 40 states and 77 cities.

We have been so inspired by the strong leadership and commitment of all our partners in what was a difficult year. We are grateful to all our partners who have advocated for and supported thousands of people to beat homelessness, as well as increase rights for renters and secure access to safe, stable, and decent housing. To learn more about the work of our partners in our Housing and Homelessness Programme, check out our website!