Heights Community Congress still fighting: Recent study highlights the extent of housing discrimination

Heights Community Congress was founded more than 35 years ago to fight discrimination in the housing and real estate market of Cleveland Heights. And today, thanks to a recent report highlighting how severe the problem still is, the organization's mission is more important than ever.

The organization took root in 1972, when a small group of residents began to respond to inequities that new homebuyers frequently encountered. This group tackled such real estate practices as steering minority homebuyers away from “more desirable” neighborhoods.  At the time, as Sven Dubie notes in The Struggle for Fair Housing in Cleveland Heights, this moment proved “to be one of the most important, if at times unsettling, exercises in social justice in the history of our community.” (For more on this, read “View from the Overlook,” Cleveland Heights Historical Society Newsletter, Spring 2009, at: www.chhistory.org/FeatureStories.php?Story=StruggleForFairHousing.)

And now, more than 35 years later, current homebuyers in Cleveland Heights and the surrounding area are again encountering disparities in mortgage lending, housing purchases and housing rentals.  According to “Persisting Racial & Ethnic Disparities in Ohio Mortgage Lending”—a study published last month by the Housing Research and Advocacy Center (HRAC), the Cleveland Metropolitan area—including Cleveland Heights and University Heights—has the highest racial disparities in sub-prime mortgage lending in Ohio, with upper income African-Americans receiving high-cost loans at nearly two-and-a-half times the rate of low-income whites. 

That’s why Heights Community Congress—in an effort to maintain the diverse neighborhoods that have become the hallmark of the Heights—continues to monitor local home sales and rentals through various testing techniques. HCC, and its partnership with HRAC, provides training on fair-housing law and investigates instances of discrimination in buying, renting or lending.  These are pursued by HCC and HRAC through legal professionals and other community organizations. In addition, HCC  holds workshops and forums that seek to encourage the communal conversation on diversity and its benefits for our citizenry.

HCC has always been there for the community. And now, in this time of change and economic stress, it’s more important than ever to consider becoming a community organizer and “friend” of HCC. The success of a community organization depends on its commitment, membership, leadership and dedication to its original purpose. HCC continues to be an advocate of social justice, a monitor of fair housing and a facilitator in building the community.  

To donate or find out more about HCC, visit www.HeightsCongress.org or call 216-321-6775.

Stephanie Applegate, Thomas Naypauer and Jeanne Diamond are members of the board of directors for Heights Community Congress.

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Volume 2, Issue 3, Posted 4:12 PM, 02.18.2009