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A Fair Housing Month Proclamation was signed into effect by Mayor Sharp on March 17, 2021, which proclaims the month of April "Fair Housing Month" for the City of Montpelier, Bear Lake County, State of Idaho.

April 2021 marks the 53rd anniversary of the passage of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Federal Fair Housing Act. However, families were not initially a protected class under this act. Familial status did not become a protected class under the Act until 1988, 20 years after the Act was first created.

The Idaho Human Rights Commission Act has prohibited discrimination in housing since 1969. In Mayor Sharp's Proclamation, it states that "equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin, is a fundamental goal of our nation, state, and city."

Finding housing affects all of us at some time in our lives as life's events happen to us. We all need to know that those we deal with in finding a house to buy or rent will be fair and honest with us.

The Fair Housing Act has a three-part approach to ending discrimination against the protected classes in any of the following ways:

1. Home renting and selling

• Refusing to rent housing, sell housing, or negotiate for housing;

• Making housing unavailable or lying about the availability of housing;

• Denying housing;

• Establishing different terms or conditions in home selling or renting;

• Providing different housing accommodations or amenities;

• Blockbusting (convincing property owners to sell cheaply because of the fear of racial, religious, or other minorities moving into the neighborhood); or

• Denying participation in housing-related services such as a multiple listing service.

2. Mortgage Lending

• Refusing to make or purchase a mortgage loan;

• Setting different terms or conditions on the loan, such as interest rates or fees;

• Setting different requirements for purchasing a loan;

• Refusing to make information about the loan available; or

• Using discriminatory practices in property appraising.

3. Other Illegal Activities

• Making discriminatory statements or advertise your property indicating a preference for a person with a certain background or excluding a protected class. This applies to those who are otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act, such as owner-occupied four-unit homes; or

• Threatening or interfering with anyone’s fair housing rights.

Mayor Sharp also states that "equal access to housing is an important component of family and community health and stability." Another important aspect of the proclamation states that "housing choice impacts our children's access to education, our ability to seek and retain employment options, the cultural benefits we enjoy, the extent of our exposure to crime and drugs, and the quality of healthcare we receive in emergencies."

This is a key component of the proclamation and one that is important to note. It is something Mayor Sharp should be commended for adding to the proclamation as housing choice and the area where we live definitely impacts our children in every aspect of their lives and their stability. The fact that we, as citizens of this city, have the right to fair housing has such a great impact on our families makes this community so much greater.

You may be wondering how Fair Housing defines a family. According to the Federal Fair Housing Act definition, to be considered part of this protected class, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

• Parents who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.

• Legal guardians who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.

• The designee of the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 18. This designation must have been made in writing by the child’s parent or legal guardian.

• A person in the process of being granted legal custody of a child under the age of 18.

• Pregnant women.

Also, rent prices must be set based on the size and quality of the apartment or house, not based on who will be living in the property. Charging families a higher rent would be considered a discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act. While a landlord might believe that charging more money could be warranted because of potential destruction or noise caused by the children, any exclusions or special conditions placed on a family is considered discrimination.

If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you have a right to file a housing discrimination complaint with HUD. Call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 800-669-9777 (TTY: 800-927-9275), or visit the HUD complaint page (www.hud.gov/fairhousing) for information about filing a complaint.

Families are something Montpelier cherishes and celebrates. Fair Housing obviously celebrates families as can be seen by the statement in Mayor Sharp's Proclamation

Let's celebrate April as Fair Housing Month and Mayor Sharp as well for recognizing the benefits of having a Fair Housing Proclamation and how it will benefit the community at large.

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