It is hard to believe housing discrimination still exists in America nearly 50 years after the Fair Housing Act was signed into law. But the battle against unfair housing practices in neighborhoods across this country continues, even in our own nation’s capital.
Susie McClannahan is a fair housing hero who is on the frontlines of fighting housing discrimination. As a Fair Housing Intake and Grant Coordinator with the Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC, Susie answered her phone a few months ago knowing it could be one of the many clients she helps every day. On the other end of the line was an older, disabled woman who needed help. For months, she had been asking her landlord to fix a broken accessible door opener to her apartment building. The issue had made it difficult for her to leave her apartment to run errands, and forced her to wait outside during extreme weather. To go about her daily life, she had to rely on others to open the door for her.
Acting on the woman’s behalf, Susie sent a request for reasonable accommodation to the landlord, which resulted in the quick repair of the automated door opener. The resident was absolutely elated to be able to enter and exit her own building without the help of others. Another small victory for fairness.
“Many people who experience housing discrimination aren’t aware of their rights. I frequently answer calls from individuals that know an experience they had was unethical, but they aren’t sure whether or not it was illegal,” Susie said. “By informing people about their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and local laws, they can take action to address the harm they’ve experienced and ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The Equal Rights Center is a HUD fair housing partner. The group recently launched a new advice column where Susie and her colleagues respond to concerns expressed by the public. For helping others every day, and for representing the highest ideals of fairness in housing, Susie is a hero. But she sees it differently.
“The real heroes are the people I serve every day,” she said. “These heroes courageously report housing discrimination; they fight to be treated with respect and dignity and ensure others don’t have to experience the trauma that they went through. I am so grateful to our Greater Washington community of superheroes that stand on the frontlines to build a more equitable region, free of housing discrimination.”