City considers fair housing plan

Josh Coffman

Bowling Green City Commission had its first reading of an ordinance to protect residents from being discriminated against because of familial status or disability at its meeting last week.

But supporters of local fair housing enforcement, which includes some Western officials, will have to wait until the end of the year to see if the city will change the way fair housing issues are reported in Warren County.

Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life, said Bowling Green needs to have a local office if the city is to consider itself a metropolitan area.

“It would give Western students, faculty and staff a more positive perception of the community,” he said. “If you feel that you have a need to file such a complaint, you’re already feeling a lot of anxiety, rejection and feeling that you’re unwanted in the community.”

C.J. Woods, director of the Office of Diversity Programs, said a local office would benefit students.

“It would give them an avenue to seek local enforcement or a local remedy when they seek housing in the community,” Woods said.

The existing city law protects against discrimination of age, race, religion, national origin and sex. The new additions would keep the law up-to-date with federal and state law by protecting the disabled and families with children.

The ordinance originally called for local enforcement of fair housing by the city’s Human Rights Commission. But that language was removed from the ordinance for its first reading.

The City Commission will not address the possible need for local housing enforcement until after a five-year fair housing plan is completed later this year – that’s when university officials will get their answers.

The report will be prepared as part of the city’s process to get a Community Development Block Grant through HUD. The city’s status as a metropolitan statistical area makes it eligible for the funding.

The report will look into Bowling Green’s housing situation and identify any problems.

Mayor Sandy Jones said the city will wait on the report’s recommendation before addressing any local housing enforcement needs.

Housing discrimination complaints in Bowling Green are currently followed up by HUD or by the state Human Rights Commission; both offices are located in Louisville.

Linda McCray, director of the city’s Human Rights Commission, which addresses local discrimination complaints, said her office doesn’t have the resources needed, such as attorneys or a large enough staff, to follow up on local housing complaints.

She said many calls regarding fair housing never make it to the Bowling Green office.

McCray said Jones was “favorable” about addressing the concerns. But McCray said she is unclear why it has taken so long for the commission to decide on the issue of local enforcement.

The changes and the lack of a time line for a decision on the fair housing issue caused it to get “caught in the system,” Jones said.

The fair housing assessment will also look for any evidence of racial segregation in the city, said Alice Burks, assistant to the director of Housing and Community Development for special projects for the city of Bowling Green.

Hearings will be held this fall for the public to discuss local needs for community development and to determine how the CDBG funding should be spent. The first hearing will be Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Reach Josh Coffman at [email protected]