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4-20 Letters to the Tribune

By Staff | Apr 19, 2019

Celebrating Fair Housing Act passage in April

Each April, we celebrate the passage of the Fair Housing Act. The Act passed seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is one of his most important legacies. Dr. King advocated for the passage of the Fair Housing Act, noting that decades of discriminatory policies and practices led to deep segregation in our communities throughout the country.

Both state and federal fair housing laws require housing-related transactions to be free of unlawful discrimination. Nearly all rentals, sales, lending, and insurance transactions related to housing are covered. Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, presence of children in the household, and physical or mental disability. North Dakota law prohibits housing discrimination based on all these federally-protected categories, plus age, marital status, and receipt of public assistance.

The Fair Housing Act has two goals: to end housing discrimination and to promote diverse, inclusive communities. The second goal is referred to as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), and it embodies our strongly-held American values of fair access and equal opportunity.

Diverse, inclusive communities with access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing are crucial to our nation’s prosperity. When fair housing laws are enforced, people have choices about where they live and aren’t relegated to neighborhoods of concentrated poverty or lower opportunity. They also have protections to ensure they can continue to live in and access their community without illegal discrimination.

High Plains Fair Housing Center is a statewide organization based in Grand Forks that works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunities. We assist people who believe that they are experiencing housing discrimination, we conduct investigation into potential housing discrimination and we provide community education to promote fair housing.

Discrimination still exists and we work hard to stop it. In the past year, High Plains Fair Housing Center’s compliant hotline took 132 calls about fair housing related issues, we directly assisted 85 clients through mediation and conciliation. We completed 105 test parts and assisted 18 clients in filing or referring their complaints to HUD or the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights. Most discrimination complaints are disability related (64%), race/color (14%), National Origin (9%) and Familial Status (8%).

In celebration of Fair Housing Month, there are free fair housing workshops throughout the state; Jamestown, Fargo and Grand Forks have declared April as Fair Housing Month and there are fair housing displays at twenty-two libraries in North Dakota. For more information about any of these events, please visit our website at www.highplainsfhc.org or contact us at (701) 792-2878. If you have experienced discrimination while attempting to rent or purchase a home, please call our complaint line at 701-203-1077 or toll-free at 1-866-380-2738.

– Submitted by Michelle Rydz, executive director, High Plains Fair Housing Center

In support of the Roosevelt library

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

I grew up the youngest of nine children. My father was an executive engineer, my mother a full-time homemaker. We didn’t have extra money, that is certain, but my Dad loved history and stressed the importance of learning as much as we could about the past. We took summer vacations all over the United States, piled into the station wagon, stopping at every historical marker along the way to each destination. I was raised to believe in the power of education and that our country was a treasure to be explored. My father did what he could, with what he had, where he was.

I didn’t make it to North Dakota until my late twenties, where I promptly fell in love with its badlands while performing as a Burning Hills Singer in the Medora Musical. In 2010, after a lifetime of traveling the globe, I returned to ND to host the show, deepening my ties to the area. Not only did I fall in love with the history, but also with the historian/author whose quest and passion for the North Dakota is truly infectious. I was deeply enchanted by stories of Roosevelt and the wild west! It’s been more than a decade of celebrating this state for me, through Medora, the arts in Bismarck and touring with shows to help elevate tourism. I’m doing what I can, with what I have, where I am.

We now have an incredible opportunity to make our state even greater. We have been chosen and supported by the family of Theodore Roosevelt to house a Presidential library. We have the funds to match those being offered us and the payback will be exponential throughout all of North Dakota. It is not only a way to elevate tourism, but also give us scholastic merit. It could connect us with those families, now piled in their SUV, visiting National Parks and historical treasures from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone, including ND on their journey. Too many times I hear “We came here because it is our last state” followed by a gush of how they never imagined the beauty of the badlands and the rich history. Let’s change that. Let’s show them how worthy our state is.

We can do it, we have the opportunity, we are North Dakota.

Emily Walter

– Submitted via NDNA

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