What We Do
The Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) is a statewide civil rights organization that proactively promotes housing justice, equity, and inclusion. Our mission is to end illegal housing discrimination and promote equal access to housing choice through education and enforcement of fair housing law.
Advocate for Fair Housing for Renters & Buyers
Historically and statistically, identifiable groups of people have received unfavorable treatment in housing transactions. In attempting to rent, buy, get a mortgage, or secure home insurance, they have been denied, harassed, given less favorable terms and conditions, or experienced a lower level of service than other groups. As a result, fair housing laws were enacted to protect against illegal housing discrimination based on “protected class status.”
Federally Protected Classes
Illegal housing discrimination based on race is illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act. It includes targeting a person based on their physical characteristics associated with race (e.g., skin color, hair texture, or facial features) or the cultural practices or characteristics associated with a particular race.
The federal Fair Housing Act protects each one of us equally against illegal housing discrimination based on the color of our skin. This means that one may not be treated differently, denied, or harassed in a housing setting or transaction because of one's skin color.
Your national origin refers to your birthplace, ancestry, language, and/or customs. It is illegal for a landlord to deny housing or treat someone differently in a housing transaction because a) of a person's name, appearance, accent, or participation in customs associated with a nationality; b) the landlord incorrectly perceives the person as being associated with a particular nationality; or c) the person associates with people of a particular national origin.
It is illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act to discriminate because of religious beliefs — or lack of religious beliefs. It is illegal to refuse to rent or sell because of religion or to treat tenants, homebuyers, or HOA members differently because of their religion.
Sex became a protected class under federal fair housing law in 1974. In 2021, HUD expanded the definition to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Today, most acts of sex discrimination consist of behaviors based on assumptions about men/women and/or sexual harassment. Women, particularly those who are poor and have limited housing options, often have little recourse but to tolerate the humiliation and degradation of sexual harassment or risk having their families and themselves removed from their homes.
Disability, under the federal Fair Housing Act, is broadly defined to include any physical or mental condition that creates a substantial "major life impairment" such as difficulty seeing, walking, or thinking. An individual can qualify as disabled if they a) demonstrate that they have an existing mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life function; b) demonstrate that the housing provider believed that they were substantially limited in a major life function; or c) demonstrate that they have a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life function.
Familial status means having a child under age 18 in the household, whether living with a parent, a legal custodian, or their designee. It also covers pregnancies and people in the process of adopting or gaining custody of a child/children.
Additional State Protected Classes
The Fair Housing Act covers victims of domestic violence under gender/sex. Therefore, policies having to do with housing that penalize victims of domestic violence because they are victims of domestic violence are prohibited. In addition, Oregon landlord-tenant law provides that victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking cannot be discriminated against. Landlords may not evict, threaten to evict, fail to renew the rental agreement/lease, increase the rent, decrease services, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement with someone who is a victim of any of the above.
Oregon has enacted fair housing laws to protect marital status. One marital status is not more protected than another. In other words, individuals may not be treated differently, denied, or harassed in a housing setting or transaction based on whether the residents are married or not.
Sexual orientation is a protected class under state and local fair housing laws. Sexual orientation is defined as an "individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s assigned sex at birth." Most statutes include gender expression and identity under this protected class. It is important to note that one kind of sexual orientation or gender identity is not more protected than another; all of us are equally protected under the law.
Source of Income
While housing providers may make selection decisions based on the applicant’s level of income, they cannot refuse to rent, sell, or lend based on the source of income, assuming the source is legal and ongoing. Examples include a) a landlord may not deny an applicant because their source of income is a public assistance program, such as Social Security, Social Security Disability, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); b) a landlord cannot reject an applicant because they do not want to accept checks from a government or nonprofit agency such as the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS); or c) the landlord cannot reject an applicant solely because a portion of their rent is being paid by a local housing authority in the form of a Section 8 voucher.
We Help With Housing Transactions
Through education, outreach, technical assistance, and enforcement specifically related to federal, state, and local fair housing laws, FHCO fights to protect renters and homebuyers against illegal housing discrimination based on “protected class status” in any housing transaction:
- Mortgage lending
- Building and construction
- Appraisals and inspections
- Homeowners and renters insurance
Train & Educate Housing Providers on Fair Housing Law
Every housing transaction falls under fair housing law. FHCO provides training services for all housing providers, including housing authorities and government agencies, to help them understand their roles and responsibilities in ensuring that fair housing practices are met:
- Property management companies
- Real estate agents
- Mortgage brokers
- Insurance companies
- Escrow officers
- Home builders
Support Social Service Providers With Their Work
We partner with social services providers throughout the state to educate and inform staff and clients of their rights under fair housing law and the resources available to help them combat housing discrimination — often at no additional cost.
Offer Guidance to Policymakers & Planners
State, regional, county, and city councils, boards, and agencies all play a part in upholding fair housing principles. FHCO serves as a resource for jurisdictions seeking guidance for how to affirmatively further fair housing goals in their communities.