Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street
|Alina Nunez, an advocate of the Fair Housing Center of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Office of the Public Attorney.
Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
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Alina Nunez, an advocate of the Fair Housing Center of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Office of the Public Attorney, spoke Wednesday, May 3, at the Del Mar Library.
Nunez illuminated what counts as housing. It is anywhere a person or family lives and to which he/she or they intend to return: residential buildings, vacant land available for the sale or lease of a dwelling, apartments, public housing, homeless shelters, migrant farm worker housing, RV parks, special needs housing and time shares. She also pointed out facts on renting. There is no rent control in San Diego. In a two-bedroom space, two people are allowed in each bedroom and one in the living room. At renewal a landlord can raise a lease rent by 10% and any amount on a month to month agreement.
The legal legs are the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. In addition the California Fair Employment and Housing Act made it unlawful to discriminate in renting, selling, financing and insuring housing. In California individuals of similar income levels in the same housing market must have a like range of housing choice available to them regardless of race, color, ancestry, religion, national origin, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression or arbitrary status, source of income, or disability. To clarify: “genetic information” is often paired with “ancestry” and “arbitrary status” applies to visuals—dyed green hair, multiple tattoos or other varied individual looks. This is tricky territory that covers San Diego’s population including the homeless, mentally ill, those with criminal histories.
Among the most common discrimination challenges Nunez and her team work with are disability concerns, pets classified as “emotional service dogs” and “hostile environment” issues. Disabled persons may need “reasonable accommodation”—an extra grip bar in the bathing or toilet area, a ramp or close parking spot. The landlord pays if the housing is federally funded, the tenant pays if privately owned. A tenant with an “emotional service dog” can skip the pet fee. However, a landlord may ask for verification the pet is a service animal. “Hostile environment” often translates to sexual harassment, when a landlord suggests sexual favors in lieu of or as part of rent.
To resolve conflicting issues between tenants and landlords the Legal Aid team first listens to complaints with “consideration” and, if necessary, goes on to mediation before resorting to legal action. Cases are researched on an individual basis and depending on the severity, legal basis, they can take years to resolve.
Resources in addition to the Legal Aid Society are San Diego’s Fair Housing Hotline, 211, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the California State Department of Fair Employment and Housing.