Local non-profit works to uncover housing discrimination

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

ATHENS, OH (WOWK) – Trying to find the right place to call home is hard enough. Some southeast Ohio residents say they’ve been treated unfairly when attempting to move to a new area, making that process even more difficult.

When searching for a place to live, you might look into the price or how close it is to your job. Those are both important to keep in mind, but you may also want to pay close attention to the seller.

Complaints of illegal and discriminatory housing practices among local landlords and sales agents have been reported in southeast Ohio. The question is “How is it being dealt with?”

Southern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS), a group that provides free legal aid to low-income residents, recently received grant funding to help fight the issue. Advocacy director and project manager Kristen Lewis says there have been complaints throughout the years alleging housing discrimination.

With the additional funding, they can move forward with their “Fair Housing” project, created in 2015, and gather evidence.

It includes some testing to determine whether or not there has been housing discrimination. We’re sending out people to pose as renters or people looking to buy a home.

Kristen Lewis, SEOLS Advocacy director and project manager

SEOLS Senior Staff Attorney and program coordinator Peggy Lee released a statement saying “The purpose of testing is to check whether the local housing market is discriminating against potential home seekers.”

Testing positions are available to people from diverse backgrounds. In addition to diversity requirements, there will be a background check for all applicants along with special training.

Each “tester’s” experience will be recorded should there be any signs of discriminatory behavior. For more information on applying, call 740-594-3558.

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