HWS, City Housing Partnership – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS, City Housing Partnership

The Geneva Human Rights Commission has hosted HWS students as interns for roughly 15 years. Now, students will work with the Commission to provide research vital to a fair-housing project. A recent Finger Lakes Times article explains the project, AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) Research and Resource Center, has been submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and grant money has been requested. That grant is currently under consideration by HUD.

“There is a real need in the community and the region to make sure recipients of federal funds are doing what they are supposed to be doing according to HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirements,” says Human Rights Commission Executive Director Karen Baer. “Ultimately, we hope to be a resource as to what AFFH is, how they can do it, and how to allocate resources in such a way it’s clear they are doing it.”

Baer notes the first phase of the project, in which the students will conduct fair-housing research and data collection, will take place regardless of whether or not the grant is received.

More information about the project, including long-range goals, is included in the Finger Lakes Times article below.

Finger Lakes Times
HWS, city agency to team on housing project

David L. Shaw • February 6, 2012

GENEVA – The Geneva Human Rights Commission and Hobart and William Smith Colleges have teamed to develop a fair-housing project.

The Commission, along with the HWS Department of Anthropology and Sociology and Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, are partnering in the effort. The project, entitled “AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) Research and Resource Center,” has been submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in hopes of obtaining a grant.

Human Rights Commission Executive Director Karen Baer, HWS Department Chairman Professor Jack Harris and Director of the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Kathleen Flowers are heading up the initiative. Baer said the goals of the project are:
• To foster a greater community understanding of the importance of fair-housing choice.
• Develop resources for organizations and municipal agencies receiving federal financial assistance that will educate and encourage voluntary compliance with fair-housing obligations and priorities.

According to a document on the project presented at this week’s Human Rights Commission meeting, the city is “demographically quite diverse, with one in four residents a person of color, with conflicts based on racial tension being well documented.

“In addition, housing segregation patterns seem quite evident, but have not been documented, addressed or resolved,” it states.

The Commission learned that more than 15 percent of Geneva’s population is identified as disabled, yet local housing stock for them is becoming more and more inaccessible.

Other factors included in the statement of need for the project are that private and public housing offerings for non-elderly disabled families falls far short of local demand; and homelessness and foreclosures are perceived to be on the increase for many neighborhoods, especially those housing the disabled, veterans and families with children.

The city’s population checks in at just under 13,000, but the fair-housing caseload of the Commission, the city’s fairhousing enforcement agency, is more like a community with nearly a million residents, according to the document.

It was noted the city has received a significant amount of HUD and state housing money in recent years, including more than $750,000 in 2012.

“This project is being proposed because of the significant role the AFFH’s activities and priorities could potentially play in addressing the lack of fair housing choice opportunities for Geneva citizens,” it states.

The project has four phases, including:

• PHASE I – HWS students enrolled in the “Senior Seminar: Research Practicum” course will conduct fair-housing research and data collection during the current 10-week spring term. Their task ends April 1.”This phase of work will be done even if we don’t get HUD funding,” Baer said.
• PHASE II – Campus Compact, AmeriCorps and two or three rising HWS seniors will perform this work during a 10-week summer program. The Phase I information will be compiled and analyzed, after which it will be this group’s job to publish research materials, create a fair-housing guidebook for local federal funding recipients and collect fair-housing resource materials.
• PHASE III – This will be a regional AFFH symposium at HWS. Local officials, planners, public-housing providers, nonprofit workers and others will be invited to participate in a community discussion on fair housing. Workshops and panel discussions will be offered, and a notable guest speaker will be invited.
• PHASE IV – The opening of the AFFH Resource Center and project assessment will mark the final phase.
The project has an estimated budget of $65,500, not including in-kind costs provided by the Colleges and the Commission.