Monday, June 13, 2011

BOLI Doesn't Yet Have What it Needs to Follow Up on Portland Fair Housing Audit Cases; Two Editorial Comments.

After the public Fair Housing forum held in Portland on Friday June 10th, I followed up with Oregon BOLI staff to clarify the status of the cases referred to them as a result of the Portland Fair Housing audit and also to inquire about the status of an existing BOLI Civil Rights Council.

Two+ Weeks After City of Portland Referrals to BOLI, NO Housing Discrimination Questionnaires Have Been Filed by FHCO With BOLI to Start the Formal Complaint Process.
Part of the BOLI Fair Housing complaint process is the requirement that a Fair Housing Discrimination questionnaire be completed by a complainant. (form is HERE). The questionnaire is used by BOLI staff to draft a complaint that is sent back to the complainant. When edited/signed by the complainant and then notarized this becomes the formal complaint filed with BOLI for investigation. After the complaint has been filed BOLI arranges an interview with the complainant within a target date of 40 days. 

My understanding of information from BOLI is:
  • BOLI had NOT received a completed questionnaire from Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) for any of the Fair Housing Audit cases referenced in the May 27th transmittal from the City of Portland.
  • BOLI has requested, but have not yet received, a copy of the full audit from FHCO; if that audit provided sufficient evidence it might form the basis for a "Commissioner's Complaint" under ORS 659A.825.  

Editorial Comment 1: Portland/FHCO/BOLI Should Request Priority from HUD for Technical Assistance To Insure Future Fair Housing Audits Are Sufficiently Robust to Meet Statistical Standards for Validity AND Serve as Basis for Enforcement Action.
In looking through prior materials I have seen no evidence to indicate that the Portland Fair Housing Audit was structured  as a statistically valid sample of the Portland rental market. Also, it is still NOT clear to me that the Portland audit results were sufficiently documented to serve as the basis for enforcement action, particularly after the recent Oregonian story said that a FHCO email recommended that the audit not be used for that purpose. To insure future fair housing audits are properly structured to meet both valid statistical and enforcement thresholds, BOLI,the City of Portland, and FHCO may want to jointly request PRIORITY from HUD for timely receipt of technical assistance in the preparation of a testing protocol. (HUD has a now closed NOFA for testing TA HERE). This testing protocol could also be used by other Oregon HUD grantees carrying out fair housing testing programs.

Editorial Comment 2: There is Opportunity to Link the Existing BOLI Council of Civil Rights with the New Portland Fair Housing Advocacy Committee.
The last meeting minutes of a BOLI established Council on Civil Rights that I could find on the BOLI website are from a January 2010 meeting. BOLI staff have advised that the Council did meet in January of this year and that the Council is being revamped.  As Portland has indicated that they are forming a new Fair Housing Advocacy Committee, it occurs to me there there is an opportunity for someone to sit on both the Council and the Committee, acting as a liaison between the two.

Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog.

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