Quarterly Newsletter - Fall 2016
woman-taking-notes.jpg This fall and winter, the  Center is talking with Connecticut residents to find out how they  learn about public housing and rental assistance program s and what influences their decisions about where to live.   We are talking with residents and service providers  within the Hartford Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes 54 cities and towns.  

If you would like to share your experience looking and applying for public or subsidized housing in Connecticut - or if you work with clients who may be interested in sharing their stories -  we want to hear from you!  P lease contact us at (860) 247-4400 or info@ctfairhousing.org.  
The Center helped the Kevalases keep their home last year.
Despite recent improvements in the economy, too many Connecticut homeowners - 1 in 27 homes statewide are still at serious risk of foreclosure.  Some will need in-depth legal assistance to keep their homes, but for others, a little information and support can go a long way. 

That's why, since 2011,  
the Center has participated in the State Judicial Branch's 
Volunteer Attorney Program  (VAP), which enlists volunteer attorneys to provide free advice on common legal issues at Superior Courthouses in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Stamford, and Waterbury.  The Center helped the Judicial Branch recruit and train volunteer attorneys for the program, and staffs a considerable portion of VAP time slots with its own attorneys.

At VAP advice tables, the Center's foreclosure prevention attorneys meet with homeowners to explain what to expect during the foreclosure process and, when possible, provide individual advice about their specific situation. The goal is to empower people with the information they need to effectively represent themselves in a foreclosure - and hopefully save their homes. 

"The foreclosure process can be overwhelming, and many homeowners don't realize that they have certain rights," says CFHC Staff Attorney Loraine Martinez.  She adds that many clients leave the VAP advice tables saying they "can breathe again" because they understand their options and know what steps to take.

This year, the Center's staff has assisted more than 439 homeowners through VAP.  Anna Peterson* of New Haven was one of them.  While out of town for several months to deal with a family crisis, Anna fell behind on her mortgage payments.  She returned home in October to a foreclosure notice with a looming deadline.

At the VAP table, a  Center attorney reviewed Anna's situation and explained that she needed to file a motion to open judgement, which she did the very same day.  As a result, she was granted a hearing that bought her more time to take advantage of the state's successful foreclosure mediation program, which helps about 70% of participants stay in their homes.  Now that she understands the process and has more time to negotiate with her lender, Anna has a much better chance of keeping her home. 

Homeowners can get advice through the Volunteer Attorney Program at any stage of the foreclosure process, but are encouraged to seek help as soon as possible.  There are no income qualifications and no appointments needed. 

Click here for the full Foreclosure Volunteer Attorney Program Schedule (subject to change).  The Center also offers foreclosure prevention clinics around the state, publishes a free foreclosure prevention guide, and, in particularly egregious and difficult situations, provides free legal representation to homeowners facing foreclosure. 

If you are an attorney interested in volunteering for the program, please contact Cheryl Halford at (860) 263-2734 x3038 or cheryl.halford@jud.ct.gov.  

*client name changed to protect privacy 
NewHUDGuidelinesLEPGINew Federal Guidelines Aim to Expand Housing Choice and Fair Housing Protections

This fall, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued several new rules and guidelines to expand housing choice and protect fair housing rights.

Expanding Choice for Housing Voucher Holders
This week, HUD issued a final rule aimed at expanding choices for housing choice voucher (also known as Section 8) holders in many areas of the country, including the Greater Hartford region.  

The new rule requires certain areas to change the way they calculate the value of housing vouchers, using zip-code based fair market rents instead of basing values on the 40th or 50th percentile of all rents across a large metro region.  The Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford metropolitan area is one of 24 metro areas nationwide to be affected by the new rule starting in 2018.  

The change is expected to help voucher holders afford rent in higher-opportunity areas where they can access higher-performing schools and other amenities.   However, some advocates have expressed concerns about the potential for unintended consequences, such as landlords in certain areas raising rents or even refusing to accept vouchers.   With these concerns in mind, the Center will be monitoring the implementation of the new rule and its impact on communities in Connecticut, even as we applaud HUD's efforts to expand housing choice.

For complete details, read HUD's press release here and the full rule here. 

Applying the Fair Housing Act to Land Use and Zoning
HUD and the Department of Justice recently issued a joint statement about how the Fair Housing Act applies to state and local land use practices and zoning laws. 

This is important guidance for anyone involved in making decisions about conservation and development, zoning, or land use at the local or state levels, to ensure that policies and practices do not have discriminatory impact.   The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a helpful summary of the statement here

Limited English Proficiency Protections
Over 25 million people in the U.S. - including over 280,000 Connecticut residents - have limited English proficiency (LEP). Because language ability is strongly linked to national origin, a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, HUD issued a new guidance in September which clarifies that housing providers cannot discriminate against people because of their limited ability to speak English.   Read the full guidance here.

Access to Shelter in Accordance with Gender Identity
HUD also published a final rule that ensures all people have equal access to HUD-funded shelter programs in accordance with their gender identity.   Read HUD's press release about the new gender identity rule here

The Center's work with partners around Connecticut to ensure safe and appropriate shelter for transgender individuals was mentioned in this recent article in the  New Haven Register

In the News

How Mansfield Shut Out Section 8 Applicant ( Hartford Courant, 9/22/16)

Upcoming Events

Free Foreclosure Prevention Clinic
Bridgeport - Dec. 21, 6pm

Save the Date!
9th Annual 
Mildred & Richard Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner
May 18, 2017
More details to come!

Resources from the Center
Step-by-step help creating a request to a housing provider for a reasonable accommodation or modification.

A free guide to help CT renters explore their housing options and understand their fair housing rights (online or print).

A free manual to help homeowners understand their rights and what to expect during every step of the foreclosure process (online or print).
Information and educational materials on the fair housing laws. Print & post, or call us for free copies.

Convenient online training videos to help recipients of federal funds understand AFFH obligations.

Donate to the Center
With uncertain times ahead, your support is more critical than ever. Join us in the fight against housing discrimination to ensure that all people have equal access to housing opportunities in Connecticut.

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860-247-4400 | Toll Free 888-247-4401 |  info@ctfairhousing.org | www.ctfairhousing.org