Quadel Trainer, Paul Collins, trains PHA staff and other affordable housing providers on program compliance, including fair housing.

Federal law prohibits discrimination in all housing transactions with few specific exemptions. Additionally, federally funded housing programs must adhere to more stringent anti-discrimination requirements. Public Housing Agency (PHA) staff, property owners, and managers must receive routine Fair Housing training.to understand how the Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, or disability.

Quadel Trainer, Paul Collins, trains PHA staff and housing providers on Fair Housing laws, requirements, and compliance. He discusses why all housing staff should receive routine Fair Housing training in this week’s blog.

Reason 1: Fair Housing Laws Vary by State

Collins noted state fair housing laws can vary widely. In addition, most state laws are even more restrictive than the federal law. Collins says housing staff should become “experts” in state regulations to avoid possible discrimination claims.

“Many states have enacted more rigorous statutes regarding fair housing practices or include additional protective classes in the state mandates. States include protected classes not mentioned in the Federal law such as specific definitions of protections based on gender identity, source of rental payment, and broader definitions of the rights of persons with disabilities,” Collins said. “Training all staff in specific state fair housing requirements is an important, yet overlooked, task in our industry.”

 Reason 2: Minimal Supervision of Resident Interactions

Housing providers vary in size – both staff and portfolio. While some PHAs employ hundreds of people, many housing entities employ less than 20 people. In Collins’s opinion, this leads to inexperienced site managers receiving very little day-to-day supervision. In turn, it is hard to ensure staff members apply fair housing policies correctly and interact with all residents appropriately.

“In my experience, many small organizations fall short in their efforts to train their employees adequately. As an added issue, maintenance staff are often completely overlooked in company fair housing training,” Collins said. “This is true even though maintenance staff often have the most day-to-day contact with property residents, contact often occurs behind closed doors. Staff are left on their own to navigate complex tasks with little or no guidance on how to treat clients in a non-discriminatory manner.”

Reason 3: Financial Impact of Discrimination Claims

Besides the obvious moral and ethical implications, site staff are often uninformed about the financial impact discriminatory actions can have on the owner. Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) property owners have a higher financial risk. Discrimination claims can result in the recapture of tax credits.

“Staff often fail to recognize the magnitude of the cost of correcting a discriminatory action or defending against allegations of discriminatory activities. These include loss or revenue, assessed penalties, sullying of business reputations, and huge legal fees that can occur in cases where complaints or legal action ensues,” Collins said. “For small properties or those operating on slim margins of profitability, the financial impact of a discrimination claim can be enormous.”

Collins is passionate about affordable housing and believes education is the critical factor in avoiding discrimination allegations. Consistent training and effective supervision will protect organizations from allegations and prepare staff to provide high-quality housing services.

Are you interested in fair housing training? Quadel holds multiple courses each month. Check out upcoming classes and register your staff today.