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Fair housing agency sees rise in disability, familial status claims

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Fair housing advocates say local cases of discrimination based on disability and familial status have been rising. 

Nancy Haynes is the executive director of the 12-county Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"Fair housing is really about making sure that everybody has access to opportunity," she says. "What we say at the fair housing center is everything relates back to housing. And where you live impacts everything else."

Haynes says race used to be the number one factor in local housing discrimination claims, which is still prevalent today.

But more recently, the largest portion of cases deal with disability and familial status – such as families or single parents with children.

Those two factors made up the majority of cases in 2015.

"So often when we do trainings, people say, ‘does housing discrimination still happen?’ And it does," Haynes says. "And the other piece that people need to understand is that less than 1 percent of the people that are discriminated against, ever even know it."

In a presentation to city officials this week, Haynes says the center opened 171 cases in 2015; 84 which occurred in Grand Rapids.

And she gave several examples of the center’s work in action, including a senior client in local HUD-funded housing with accessibility issues.

On a larger scale, Haynes says the center also has an open investigation on familial status discrimination that originated locally and now spans three states.

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