Thursday, April 6, 2017

West Tennessee Fair Housing Celebration

MCIL joins other local and state agencies in our commitment to Fair Housing

By Tim Wheat
The Memphis Center for Independent Living had the stage after lunch at the Memphis Botanic garden for the annual Fair Housing Conference. This year MCIL sponsored the event with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, The Memphis Area Legal Services, The City of Memphis and others.

Mayor Lutrell at the event
Board member Louis Patrick was to speak at the event and was replaced at the last minute with the MCIL Program Director who challenged the crowd to find the Fair Housing issues in authentic photos of inaccessible apartments in the Memphis area. The event was attended by over sixty people and was offered as a training and celebration. 

The Keynote Speaker was Bryan Greene, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Greene was the 2007 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, the highest federal honor bestowed upon federal senior executives for outstanding service.

“Fair housing is critical to other opportunities,” said Mr. Greene at the Memphis Botanic Garden. “HUD must effectively administer the law to make all communities open and attractive to everybody. Criminal background and eviction history creates a separate local market apart from HUD requirements. Many places do not rent to people with old convictions and arrest records. This can be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.”

Terri Freeman and Deidre Malone, headed the next segment facilitated by Kathy Trawick of the West Tennessee Legal Services. Ms. Freeman is the President of the National Civil Rights Museum and Ms. Malone is the new President of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP. 

The panel noted that gentrification does not always bring problems and noted that the Civil Rights Museum is actually an anchor for gentrification downtown. It is clear that redevelopment like Foote homes near the NCRM needs a grocery and that communities must be transformed before there is business investment. The moderator also presented the idea of visitibility to the group and how “town-homes” are used as a way to circumvent the accessibility of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. 

The Final Panel of the day had Tim Bolding, the Executive Director of United Housing and Steve Lockwood, Executive Director of the Frayser Community Development Corporation. They both mentioned MCIL and our importance for Fair Housing. Mr. Bolding said he builds accessible homes and was powerful in his demand for home buyer education. He said that information and education was what makes housing sustainable.

The final panel at the event