People with disabilities, large families face discrimination when renting, report says

In the past, race has been one of the biggest issues when it came to fair housing impediments in Glendale, but now people with disabilities and large families face greater discrimination, according to a recent report to the city's Housing Authority.

The shift follows cultural changes that came with significant growth in Glendale's foreign-born population, especially Armenian, and a protracted recession that turned the housing market upside-down. It's also in line with national trends, said Veronica Tam, a consultant who created the Fair Housing Impediment Analysis.

The city must complete the analysis every five years in order to receive federal funds that help pay for community services and affordable housing. Once the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development receives the report, it may periodically assess how the city is responding to discrimination.

With the city's median home price at $450,000 in 2010, many low-income residents tend to rent, according to Tam's report. However, appropriately sized rental units may also be unattainable.

Between fiscal year 2006 and 2011, roughly half of all housing discrimination complaints came from people with mental or physical disabilities, 12% were based on family status and 10% were race-driven, according to the report. Between 1998 and 2003, national origin and race was more of a factor, some due to post 9/11 sentiment, Tam said.

Landlords may also discriminate against larger households — characterized as five or more people in the report — by charging them bigger deposits or preventing them from renting smaller units. Larger households were also more likely to earn smaller incomes than others in the city, according to the report.

Although Glendale has helped fund housing projects specifically for people with disabilities, that sector still faces discrimination, according to the report.

“It's very, very obvious that physical disability [complaints] jumped up,” Tam said.

For example, landlords may refuse to exempt service animals from a no-pet policy, or to rent to tenants with a history of mental illness.

The analysis also included a new issue that hasn't been brought up much in the past: discrimination against the homeless.

“Because of the economy, homelessness became more of a prominent issue,” Tam said.

Homeless people may not have the recent rental history or credit history required by most landlords, making it difficult to transition from the streets, Tam said.

Although race-based complaints are no longer the majority, the problem still exists. The report states there is a need for more homeownership education for Armenians and Latinos.

The city coordinates housing workshops for tenants and landlords, and contracts with fair-housing services to investigate complaints. While the efforts boost awareness, many impediments continue, the report found.

“You'll never be able to clean up everything,” Tam said.

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