Interfaith Action Network Monthly
November 2020

Ready, Set, Action
Welcome to November!

The entire country is holding its breath awaiting the outcome of the election, especially those of us passionate about racial justice. As the results come in, we at the Fair Housing Justice Center join our friends and supporters in envisioning an inclusive nation free from discrimination, as we continue the work of the beloved community.

Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to, and some ideas for getting involved.
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
Due to COVID-related concerns and other issues, last summer was relatively quiet for us in terms of new case filings and settlements. But the fall has brought a flurry of new activity, most significantly a new lawsuit based on a nationwide investigation of the real estate giant Redfin. FHJC has joined the National Fair Housing Alliance and eight other organizations in a complaint that calls out Redfin’s policies of offering significantly different levels of service based on home price and location. It’s a clear example of the Disparate Impact provision of the Fair Housing Act, which has been under attack by the Trump administration. Click here to visit our webpage dedicated to the investigation, including a close-up look at the Long Island portion of the investigation and how it relates to Newsday’s similar findings in last year’s Long Island Divided report.
FHJC is also connected to two other recent fair housing lawsuits. The first, brought by the United States Department of Justice  against a Staten Island real estate company, uses evidence of race discrimination obtained through DOJ’s testing program which was established back in 1992 by our Executive Director Fred Freiberg. The second complaint involves a Brooklyn woman with disabilities. FHJC provided the complainant with resources from our Adele Friedman Housing Accessibility Fund to hire an architect to evaluate the feasibility and costs associated with making the reasonable modifications that would allow her to use and enjoy her home.

October also saw settlements in two other cases with FHJC connections. The first involved race and national origin discrimination at a co-op on the Upper West Side. The second was focused on major developer The Atlantic Development Group, who agreed to make retrofits at 71 buildings that were in violation of the accessibility provisions of the Fair Housing Act. The initial investigations that led to the Atlantic case were first performed by the FHJC in 2006.
Recent films and TV series like The Greenbook and HBO’s Lovecraft Country feature depictions of a dark chapter in American history. “Sundown towns” were all-white communities where violence against African Americans was tacitly accepted and encouraged by residents and police alike. In his book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, author James W. Loewen goes in search of this disturbing history. Far from being restricted to just the deep South, Loewen learns that the nation is dotted with thousands of all-white towns that are (or were until recently) all-white on purpose. Curious about your own town’s history? Loewen has also created a website for anyone interested in doing their own sundown town research. Examining our true history is a painful but necessary step toward justice and the creation of the Beloved Community.
Time to get out and advocate in your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
How much does intention matter when it comes to housing discrimination? Is it okay for a real estate company to use “race-neutral” algorithms that have a discriminatory impact on people or communities of color? Can a real estate company offer different levels of service based on solely on home price and location? That last example is the basis of the Redfin lawsuit, and the subject of a new policy paper written by FHJC’s Fred Freiberg, Britny McKenzie, and Craig Waletzko. “Ending Racism in Residential Real Estate,” discusses the role that the real estate industry played in creating segregated neighborhoods, and calls on real estate firms to examine their own systems, policies, and structures to ensure that they are not treating populations or communities differently or perpetuating segregation.

But it’s not just the real estate industry. In eliminating housing discrimination and building the beloved community, we all have a role to play. To quote from our own report, “If homebuyers or sellers observe or experience real estate companies shirking their responsibility by failing to provide equal service; if people working within the real estate industry observe agents or brokers engaged in discriminatory practices that may be harming consumers or communities; or if your community is not being served by real estate companies in an equitable manner because of its racial make-up; it is time to call out these discriminatory policies and practices and report them. We all have a responsibility to eliminate racially discriminatory policies and practices in the residential real estate market.”
Building the Beloved Community
Want to get involved in the Building the Beloved Community interfaith initiative in some other way? Below are some updates from our interfaith initiative.
For the second consecutive year, FHJC participated in First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York’s third annual advocacy training day, Becoming a Matthew 25 Church: Tools for Advocacy. Community Engagement Coordinator Craig Waletzko gave a presentation on fair housing history and advocacy, with specific information on COVID-related housing resources and the effects of the pandemic on housing discrimination. The virtual event kicked off with a passionate sermon by The Rev. Adriene Thorne, and included a presentation by Faith Communities for Just Reentry. Our thanks to First Presbyterian for the invitation. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event – hopefully in person!
Waletzko also recently attended a virtual meeting of faith leaders and social justice advocates arranged by the Governor’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives. Participants from across the state offered a 360° view of fair housing, segregation, discrimination and other housing disparities in order to create goals and action items. The shared ideas will be incorporated into New York’s Assessment of Fair Housing report early next year. Here’s hoping the report will be a true step forward for faith in action as we continue to build the Beloved Community.

We've come a long way, but we still have a distance to go before all of our citizens embrace the idea of a truly interracial democracy, what I like to call the Beloved Community, a nation at peace with itself.”

John Lewis
Fair Housing Justice Center | 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite 302, Long Island City, NY 11101
| (212) 400 - 8201 | (212) 400 - 8203 |