Housing Complaints on the Rise

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Complaints of housing discrimination are on the rise in northern Nevada, federal figures show.

And though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has added staff to handle the increasing case load, HUD does not have a fair housing office in Reno. The closest one is in San Francisco.

This year, figures show the federal agency has received 39 complaints of fair housing discrimination in Reno. That compares with 20 in 2002.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, family status or disability.

Some attribute the rise in complaints to increased awareness of housing rights, people with disabilities demanding accommodations and more discrimination against Hispanics.

"It's a sizable number,"said HUD spokesman Larry Bush."It takes a considerable amount of time to resolve the cases, sometimes several years."

Nevada is the only state in HUD's Western region that does not have an agency handling fair housing complaints.

"If somebody believes they've been discriminated against and they live in Nevada, their closest access to justice as far as administrative complaints is HUD's office of fair housing and equal opportunity in San Francisco,"said Katherine Knister Copeland, executive director of the Silver State Fair Housing Council.

Although state law requires the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to handle fair housing complaints in the state, it has no staff to do so, said Carlos Romo, assistant administrator for the commission in Reno.

"There is just no funding,"he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

As a result, HUD in San Francisco takes the Nevada complaints.

"We would welcome and encourage a state agency to apply to accept referrals for investigation,"Bush said."We do not have enough staff to handle the complaints of Nevada. It would be useful to have more resources."

Once the commission is recognized by HUD as an agency accepting referrals, the state then could apply for one of two grants for funding, he said.