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Ohio State Legal Services Association Receives Federal Grant to Tackle Fair Housing Issues in Central Ohio

Columbus, OH—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the release of more than $13 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for 51 HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies, including more than $317,000 to Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA). HUD awarded the grant to OSLSA to expand fair housing services into Franklin County by partnering with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC).

The funding will enable organizations like OSLSA to conduct a range of fair housing enforcement, education, and outreach activities related to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing discriminatory housing practices in underserved communities is one of the priorities of the grant. The funds are the first ARPA competitive grants in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) that directly address the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of color, lower-income communities, and other underserved and vulnerable populations.

“We know the effects of COVID have been especially devastating to communities of color and lower-income populations,” said Kristen Lewis, Advocacy Director for LASC’s sister organization, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS). “This funding will enable our Tenant Advocacy Project to screen 2,000 Franklin County Municipal Court eviction cases for fair housing violations. In cases where there is suspected housing discrimination, we will investigate and pursue claims.”

“This project substantially increases our capacity to screen for fair housing violations and take actions in cases with merit,” said Ben Horne, LASC’s Advocacy Director. “If there’s evidence of discrimination, we can file an administrative complaint at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or HUD. And, when appropriate, we can pursue affirmative case litigation in state or federal court.”

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