Fewer Housing Discrimination Cases Filed


There are fewer housing discrimination cases being filed in Wisconsin, but it may not be because people are becoming more tolerant.

In the La Crosse area alone, a few major housing discrimination cases have been settled recently, including one in which an apartment complex manager was accused of telling an African-American couple that there was not housing available when there was.

Margaret Bowitz is the Senior Administrator of Case Management Services for the Fair Housing Council in Wisconsin. She says there have been a number of significant housing discrimination cases in the state this year, but reports are on the decline, “The economy is so bad there are fewer people moving. When the economy is bad, what people have to worry about every single day is either, ‘I have to get a job. I have to get money to feed my children. I have to do this.’ People move less and their civil rights become less of an issue because feeding their families is the big issue.”

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Bowitz says they take in about 225 complaints annually, which is down from several years ago. Regardless, she says incidents are underreported.

Bryan Greene is the General Deputy Assistant Secretary with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing. He says the number of reports have more to do with how well residents know their rights and if they have local access to a fair housing group, “All great social progress we’ve made as a nation result of people standing up and taking action and saying certain practices are intolerable and pursuing those cases. Those people make the change for all of us.”

The most common discrimination reports are based on disability, race, and having children.