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In celebration of Fair Housing Month, the City of McKeesport hosted its second annual Fair Housing Workshop on April 26 at the Palisades.
This year’s event welcomed representatives of the Fair Housing Law Center to define the Fair Housing Act, describe who it protects, and share guidelines on how landlords can successfully abide by the law.
Attorney Brian Kallus and paralegal Ron Lanning offered a casual presentation for community residents, real estate agents, McKeesport Housing Authority staff, private landlords, and property managers.
Kallus presented attendees with various scenarios and allowed them to discern whether the situations presented an issue with discrimination. He went on to describe fair housing law.
The Fair Housing Act, which covers renting, selling, lending and all areas connected with residential housing, protects individuals from discrimination in the following protected classes:
* Race: Landlords cannot consider the race of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
* Color: The color of a prospective tenant or buyer cannot play any role in a person's ability to have access to housing.
* Religion: The religion an individual practices or does not practice, cannot give that person preferential treatment or cause them to not be considered for a property.
* National Origin: Where a person’s family is from should not play into a landlord’s or seller’s decision to rent or sell their property to that person.
* Sex: Landlords cannot consider the sex of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
* Familial Status: This class covers parents and other legal guardians who have children under 18, including a designee of the parent with written permission. It also covers women who are pregnant or individuals seeking custody of a person under 18. Landlords cannot refuse to sell or rent to families with children, and they cannot deem a property fit for "adults only."
* Disability: A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more major life activities. This can include chronic illness, mental illness, alcoholism, HIV or AIDS, a physical handicap, and more.
The City of McKeesport has accepted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mission to affirmatively further fair housing by providing educational information and outreach regarding fair housing on a regular basis. April’s event highlighted the City’s commitment to fair housing.
“In the City of McKeesport, where more than 50 percent of our housing stock is made up of rental properties, it’s is important that our tenants understand their rights and that our landlords understand their responsibilities,” said A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport’s community development director. “We want to be sure that everyone in McKeesport is linked to the appropriate resources associated with fair housing concerns.”
Mayor Michael Cherepko addressed workshop attendees regarding the City’s decision to implement a new regulated rental ordinance, which is intended to regulate the safety of rental properties.
“This is just one more step toward guaranteeing the people of McKeesport are not forced to live in deplorable conditions,” Cherepko said. “The bottom line is that we want to save these residents from unnecessary hardship, and in some cases, to save them from a potential tragedy.”
The McKeesport Department of Community Development and the Fair Housing Law Center distributed informational pamphlets and quick-reference guides on individuals’ rights to fair housing, additional resources for those with disabilities, and tips to recognize discrimination.
More information about Fair Housing in the City of McKeesport is available online at www.mckeesport-pa.gov. Contact the Fair Housing Law Center at 877-725-4472 or www.fhlaw.org.