The ability to find and maintain affordable and habitable housing is one of the most critical needs of North Penn Legal Services (NPLS) clients. We consider housing issues as a top priority in our case acceptance criteria. Our latest needs assessment survey provided us with further emphasis on the need for advocacy with regard to housing problems. During the fall of 2010, an initiative was created by five jurisdictions: Cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, Counties of Lehigh and Northampton who joined together to form the Lehigh Valley Fair Housing Project. NPLS was contacted by the DCED Office in Northampton County to offer further assistance to residents throughout the Lehigh Valley with their fair housing issues. NPLS’ housing activities funded under current CDBG projects in Lehigh and Northampton Counties provided a framework for a larger fair housing initiative.
After several meetings and phone conversations with Lehigh and Northampton Counties, a bi-county project was created. During the spring of 2011, the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton joined the fair housing project as both members and financial supporters. “NPLS is thrilled to be part of this regional initiative which has great potential to promote fairness in housing choice for a population that already faces too many barriers in this area.” The official start date of the Lehigh Valley Housing Fair Housing Initiative was January 1, 2012. Project activities include the creation and distribution of fair housing materials, coordinating fair housing training and outreach, and participation in additional regional fair housing opportunities.
Fair housing refers to local and federal laws enacted to make sure that all individuals have equal access to the housing of their choice. These laws prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. For example, the refusal to rent to someone because they are African-American, have children, speak Spanish or have a disability would be a violation of the fair housing laws. Likewise, the refusal to allow an individual with a disability to make accommodations that allow them to live in the premises (i.e., a wheelchair ramp) would be violation of the fair housing laws. The laws also pertain to the sale and purchase of homes, including the financing and insuring of the home. Under the Fair Housing Project, advocates will perform outreaches to educate individuals on these laws, as well as advise, refer and represent where necessary.
Contact NPLS with any fair housing problems at 610-317-8757 or our toll free intake number at 877-953-4250. To schedule an outreach or to receive free fair housing materials, NPLS is available to help. Visit NPLS’ website for project updates and resources at www.northpennlegal.org.