Following up on the results of fair housing testing of local real estate agents, the city’s Human Relations Board will host a community conversation on Tuesday, June 27.
“Breaking the Silence: Creating an Equitable Path to Homeownership” will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the First Salem Missionary Baptist Church, 370 Capital Ave. SW.
The conversation will be the third in a series in the African-American community about the 2016 testing results, which showed differences in treatment between black and white neighbors trying to purchase a home.
The city is required to affirmatively further fair housing as a condition of receiving U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. This requires staff to identify and address impediments to fair housing choice, defined as actions, omissions, or decisions made because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin, which restrict housing choices or the availability of housing choices.
The city contracted with the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan to conduct three systemic housing investigations in the 2015-2016 program year. The investigation focused on real estate agents and race discrimination involved 38 tests (19 matching test subject pairs – one white, one black), and resulted in agents providing better service and treatment to white test subjects.
The “Breaking the Silence” conversations are structured to give African-American community members a chance to familiarize themselves with the investigation’s findings and other impediments, talk about their own experiences, and discuss how the city and community can create a more equitable path to homeownership in Battle Creek.
“Our local government needs to be responding authentically to what our community wants,” said City Commissioner Andy Helmboldt, also the Human Relations Board chair. “These forums are intended to make sure we are going forward in that way – where the people who are affected, it’s their voice and participation that is leading us to action.”
More than 50 people participated in the first two conversations, held May 30 and June 13. Notes from those sessions, along with investigation reports, and other fair housing materials, are available at the city’s website, www.battlecreekmi.gov/fairhousing.
“There was a lot of information in the session,” said Ron Sweet, a participant and vice-chair of the North Central Neighborhood Planning Council. “There are not enough opportunities to address topics like this, so this is good. Fair housing is definitely something that needs to be worked on.”