Suffolk’s Professor William Berman Discusses Housing Discrimination

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During the month of October, PILP 13 engaged in many informative discussions regarding affordable housing issues in the Boston area. Most recently, this year’s PILP class heard from Professor William Berman, Clinical Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, Managing Attorney of Suffolk’s Accelerator Practice, and Director of Suffolk’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program.

Professor Berman discussed the history of fair housing issues in the United States, tracing housing and race discrimination back to the abolishment of slavery. It was not until 1968 with Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. that the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial discrimination related to the sale of private property violates the 13th Amendment.  In the same year, the Fair Housing Act was implemented, instituting protection against housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

Professor Berman also spoke about Suffolk’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program’s (HDTP), which works to identify housing discrimination in the Commonwealth. For example, the Program recently issued a press release detailing their discovery of landlords refusing to rent to families with small children due to the presence of lead paint within the unit.

In accordance with the Massachusetts Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, landlords must remove lead paint if a child younger than six resides in the unit. However, HDTP’s test results revealed the widespread issue of landlords discriminating against families with small children, rather than making the necessary repairs to the unit.

By reporting landlords and realtors to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Professor Berman hopes the research of HDTP continues to counter housing discrimination in Massachusetts.