PHAs Agree to Equalize Access Regardless of Ability to Speak English

December 14, 2017
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The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC) recently announced the settlement of housing discrimination complaints against four public housing authorities (PHAs) in western Massachusetts accused of showing preferential treatment of English-speaking white applicants when compared to Spanish-speaking Latino applicants. The complaints alleged that the PHAs discriminated against Latino applicants by failing to offer applications in Spanish and, in some cases, referring Latino applicants to seek language services from another agency when they needed assistance.

Western Massachusetts has the highest rate of housing segregation between Latinos and whites in the nation, according to the MFHC, which said that PHAs contributed to the high rates of housing segregation in the region when they fail to offer equal access to applicants with limited ability to speak English.

Under the agreements, the PHAs agreed to provide notice of the availability of interpreters; provide applications in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, and Portuguese; create or maintain a Language Access Plan that’s available to the public at the PHA and online; mandate staff trainings; and appoint Language Access Coordinators.

According to Meris Bergquist, MFHC’s Executive Director, “the agreements signed by the four housing authorities will equalize access for applicants who do not speak English well and help break down the barriers that exclude and limit housing opportunities based on national origin and race.”