Students, GHRC Partner for Fair Housing – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students, GHRC Partner for Fair Housing

HWS sociology students enrolled in the Senior Seminar: Research Practicum will provide essential background research for The Geneva Human Rights Commission (GHRC) as part of a project funded with a $65,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“This research is a true collaboration between the Geneva Human Rights Commission and the Colleges. These senior sociology majors will engage in community-based sociological research, a ‘public sociology,’ with a research collaborator committed to the highest professional standards and to social equity,” explains Professor of Sociology Jack Harris, who leads the Seminar. “The students will bring sociological skills they have learned and rehearsed in the classroom to bear on a meaningful research question that can affect social policy and the lives of many of our citizens.”

Grants were distributed to agencies in an effort to promote the new federal Equal Access to Housing regulation, which ensures that HUD housing and programs are open to all families, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. GHRC was one of only three agencies in New York State to receive such a grant, and the only one in Upstate New York. The funds are intended to help local communities learn more about their fair housing rights and housing providers meet their fair housing obligations.

“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 and how they can comply.”

Baer notes students will be invaluable in the first phase of the project, taking place this semester, in which they will conduct fair-housing research and data collection. Using a variety of survey tools and data at their disposal, students will build a foundation for future analysis for the project. This includes ascertaining what percentage of housing in Geneva is accessible, and how many people need accessible housing; how many neighborhoods are integrated; what agencies and organizations in the region receive federal funds; and what their current “AFFH quotient” is so it can be measured again at the end of the project.

The project as a whole will foster a greater community understanding of the importance of fair-housing choice and help develop resources for organizations and municipal agencies receiving federal financial assistance that will educate and encourage voluntary compliance with fair-housing obligations and priorities. Phase two of the project is expected to take place this summer, with two or three rising seniors working with GHRC to compile and analyze the data obtained this semester and then publish research materials, create a fair-housing guidebook for local federal funding recipients and collect fair-housing resource materials.

A regional AFFH symposium at HWS is anticipated once the materials have been developed. 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. The project will culminate in the opening of the AFFH Resource Center at the GHRC and assessment of the project.