Access Center for Independent Living - Dayton Ohio

ACIL




Access Center for Independent Living

The Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL) is a non-residential center for independent living whose board and staff are comprised almost entirely of people with disabilities.

Our mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have complete access to the communities in which they wish to live.

We do so through offering advocacy, information and referral, independent living skills training, peer support, our recycled durable medical equipment program and through assisting individuals transition from institutional settings to community living.

ACTION ALERT!

For Immediate Release:
July 28, 2014

Contact:     

Advocates Outraged by "fundamentally un-American" Senate Bill 349

Bill would protect landlords who discriminate and jeopardize federal funding for
Ohio Civil Rights Commission

Today, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and partners announced a campaign to oppose Senate Bill 349 introduced by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. MVFHC and its partners denounce SB 349 as an attack on civil rights and an erosion of strong fair housing laws in Ohio. The campaign’s website is fight349.org .

Among other regressive measures, the bill would lower the penalties for housing discrimination and damage the important safeguards provided by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Ohio residents would either need to use the administrative process provided on the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or be forced to use attorneys to sue violators in state court. In addition, Ohio law would no longer be "substantially equivalent" to federal law, thus ending substantial HUD funding to Ohio.

"SB 349 would rob Ohio of its substantial equivalent status and its ability to investigate and adjudicate housing discrimination claims on the state level,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Proponents of SB 349 are just plain wrong if they believe that they will have an easier time complying with civil rights laws administered from the federal level as opposed to at the state level."

Specifically, SB 349:
  • Sets up conflict between state and federal fair housing law, thereby stripping Ohio of the approximately $1 million that HUD annually provides to the OCRC to investigate discrimination cases. The housing law conflict would prohibit the OCRC from accessing Fair Housing Assistance Program dollars that support complaint processing, enforcement activities, training and other projects.
  • Diminishes the consequences of discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that landlords found guilty of flagrant discrimination would have to pay.
  • Discourages victims of housing discrimination from filing a complaint to protect their rights by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case.
  • Reduces legal challenges to discrimination by prohibiting state or local fair housing agencies from collecting actual or punitive damages.
  • Renders the OCRC unable to punish housing discrimination and forces cases into the more expensive and complex courts process.
  • Superficially mirrors some portions of federal law while gutting Ohio’s current protections from housing discrimination.

"SB 349 would significantly undercut the work of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and force housing discrimination complaints to the Federal level," said Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal in Cincinnati. "Why would Ohio want to give up its control of civil rights issues? Does the real estate industry really think it is better off facing Federal investigators and Federal attorneys? This is not the time for the state of Ohio to gut its civil rights laws."

Michael Marsh, President/CEO of Toledo Fair Housing Center, said, "SB 349 is a step backwards for Ohioans. Instead of ensuring equal opportunity, it renders civil rights laws virtually unenforceable within the Buckeye State and turns away $1M in annual funding from the federal government to enforce the fair housing laws. It is fundamentally un-American to deny equal opportunity to families with children and persons with disabilities. Senator Seitz should be ashamed, and Ohioans embarrassed, by his buffoonery."

Advocate contacts:
  • Bill Faith, Executive Director, Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), 614-579-6108 billfaith@cohhio.org

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