New controversy is swirling around Portland officials today as evidence comes to light the city never intended to enforce fair housing standards that protect minorities from discrimination.
Last year the city of Portland conducted an audit of rental housing that showed an astounding 64% of rentals tested discriminated against African-American and Latinos. The city never acted on those findings until they were reported on by The Oregonian.
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees housing for the city, first told the paper that legal action against landlords who discriminate wasn't the "right question" but later said: "We have always intended to pursue enforcement actions against select landlords tested in the audit process." Federal law requires that the civil rights of renters be protected.
Internal emails show Portland officials and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon never intended to enforce the law against landlords who discriminated against black and Latino testers in a housing audit last year.The documents also show the agencies charged with protecting renters from discrimination worked to appease the association that represents the rental industry, giving it early access to the audit and offering to let it help shape the public message.
In response to this new news, I wrote Commissioner Fish a letter yesterday evening asking for an independent investigation into the city's failure to enforce fair housing laws. It is particularly concerning that city officials apparently conspired with an association of landlords to minimize the large-scale nature of discrimination in our city.