H.O.P.E.'s mission: Ending housing discrimination in FL

caines | 5/2/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Non-profit organization's 20th anniversary targets cases in M-DC and Broward Its been 45 years since Congress passed the Federal Fair Housing Act [FHA], but bigotry still permeates throughout American society like an abandoned house that needs to be renovated. And on the local scene, Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence [H.O.P.E.] has been on the frontline fighting housing discrimination a mission it first undertook some 25 years ago for citizens of Miami-Dade and Broward. The Federal Fair Housing Act was a monumental piece of legislation, said Keenya J. Robertson, Esq., president/CEO of H.O.P.E. during their 20th Annual Miami-Dade County Fair Housing Celebration at the Hilton in downtown Miami. We have made great strides but we continue to see discrimination in many different forms. She says that the most common example of discrimination is against families with children. For example, Sanctuary Cove Apartments in North Lauderdale recently settled a $750,000 occupancy discrimination lawsuit, because they had placed a cap on the number of children that could share a bedroom.

Origins of H.O.P.E.

The not-for-profit corporation is the brainchild of Bill Thompson, president emeritus, who handed the mantle over to Robertson. She continues to lead the organization in its efforts to ensure that Americans of all races enjoy equal housing opportunities. I have a great past, present and future with this great organization, Thompson said. H.O.P.E. is my baby. Im so very proud of Keenya making my baby a grownup. Thompson says that he started the organization primarily because there just wasnt enough being done to promote fair housing. Before the FHA was signed into law, there were no laws in place to protect Blacks from housing discrimination. Now several decades later, factors such as race, poverty, education and of course discrimination remain impediments to a large number of Blacks living in Miami in their quest for fair housing. Consider the following statistics: 45 percent of Blacks in Miami have no high school diploma. 40 percent of Black people receive public assistance. 17 percent of the total population of Blacks in Miami live below the poverty level. 58 percent of people that live in Overtown are on public housing. Society needs the Fair Housing Act because discrimination is still taking place, said Vicki D. Johnson, chief, Enforcement Branch U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD]. Redlining and predatory lending still occurs. Robertson says that H.O.P.E. has been instrumental in the recovery of nearly $12 million in out-of-court settlements for victims of housing discrimination. Not only do Robertson and her crew fight housing discrimination, but they are also talented singers and musicians as well. Robertson stepped up to the microphone and harmonized with her band entitled Let Freedom Ring, belting out a soulful rendition of a Sam Cooke classic. Calvin Hughes, anchor/reporter Local 10 WPLG, was the master of ceremonies and introduced the keynote speaker James H. Carr, a housing finance, banking and urban policy consultant. Carr says that the damage created from the subprime lending spree which sparked home foreclosures throughout the nation is not over. He says its imperative that people of color participate in the housing market, because more children of color are being born than any other race. 55 percent of Blacks lost their wealth during this housing scam, Carr said. We are still subsidizing a system that doesnt have legs to stand on. By Jimmie Davis, Jr.Miami Times writer