HOPE Executive Director Anne Houghtaling, left, and Glenn Brewer, Housing Discrimination Task force chairman

Oak Park’s Fair Housing Task Force is completing its work on recommendations to the village’s Board of Trustees on how to address and prevent discrimination in Oak Park’s rental housing market.

The task force formed in February after a report released by the HOPE Fair Housing Center revealed that as many as six property management companies discriminated against black applicants and those with hearing disabilities.

The recommendations were scheduled to be completed by October, but Glenn Brewer, chairman of the task force, said in a telephone interview that they are not expected to be presented to the Board of Trustees sometime in December.

Brewer said taskforce members will hammer out the details of the recommendations at the final meeting of the task force, which is scheduled for at Nov. 12 at village hall at 7 p.m.

He said the task force is expected to recommend blind testing, similar to the testing conducted by HOPE Fair Housing Center, every two years. He said the testing is expected to be conducted by a private contractor, rather than by village staff.

Brewer also said the task force likely will recommend increase anti-discrimination classes for property owners, real estate agents and brokers. Brewer said the anti-discrimination classes could be linked to similar classes required of rental property owners under the Crime-Free Housing Ordinance. The training would include information about federal anti-discrimination law, the state’s human rights ordinance and the Oak Park’s human rights ordinance.

The task force also aims to get more information to new residents about actions they can take if they believe they have been the target of discrimination.

“We want to try to make sure more new residents know what their rights are as it relates to fair housing,” Brewer said.

Strengthening the village’s referral network with state and county enforcement groups that take legal action against property management companies that discriminate is another expected recommendation from the task force board, Brewer said.

Brewer said he does not expect the village to release the names of companies accused of discrimination in the HOPE Fair Housing report. He said the names still have not been released to the task force.

The village did not release the names to the task force, because doing so would make the names available to the public through the federal Freedom of Information Act, Brewer said.

“We in the village did not request the names, because typically the way enforcement works is you take the opportunity to engage in negotiations … that are not necessarily adversarial,” Brewer said, adding that the village would use the tests to work with those in violation to change future results.

HOPE filed its own administrative complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in July against six Oak Park property management companies. The complaint states that in one case twice as many white applicants were shown rental apartments than black applicants.

Black applicants also had fewer return phone calls than white applicants and received less information about rental units. It also notes that hearing-impaired applicants were hung up on multiple times by apartment management companies.

HOPE Executive Director Anne Houghtaling could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Unless the village board changes direction or votes to require the names to come out, they will probably stay with HOPE,” Brewer said. “Once HOPE has a resolution [to the administrative complaints], they will release the names.”

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