Everyone deserves fair housing opportunities. Over the past nine months, I have had the opportunity to work with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, City of Beloit, Rock County and other engaged community members to study barriers to fair housing and recommend goals and strategies for positive action and increasing fair housing.

Data shows there are many areas for improvement. Large differences in housing quality, housing cost burden and homeownership rates by race and ethnicity exist.

The greatest barrier right now is the extremely low housing vacancy rate, which creates multiple other impediments, such as availability of affordable housing, high rent and application fees and strict tenant screening. These barriers have greater negative impacts on persons of color and persons with disabilities than on white, non-disabled persons. Some other barriers include not-in-my-backyard thinking (NIMBYism), lack of consumer education, lack of accessible housing for persons with disabilities and frequent evictions and lack of legal representation for evictions.

Some recommendations for improvement include creating and preserving affordable housing, strengthening fair housing enforcement and outreach programs, improving tenant/housing provider relations, developing an eviction reduction strategy and increasing access to consumer education.

A copy of the draft plan is available on the city’s website at www.ci.janesville.wi.us/fairhousing. Please take a few minutes to inform yourself on this important topic and share your thoughts. I hope that this report will educate the community on the extent of housing disparities and underscore the importance of taking positive steps to increase fair housing opportunities.

JENNIFER PETRUZZELLO

City of Janesville neighborhood and community services director

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