Over at the Dixie Pig blog, I found an interesting post about a recent report on alleged housing discrimination against Hispanics that was published by a Washington, DC-based non-profit: the Equal Rights Center. The report is titled, “Precaución: Obstacles for Latinos in the Virginia Rental Housing Market” and it goes into some detail about alleged discrimination against Americans of Hispanic ancestry. A Washington, DC-based law firm, with no Virginia offices, helped compile the study.
In case you have never read the Dixie Pig, it is a blog penned by Virginia House of Delegates Member Scott Surovell (44th District), a northern Virginia Democrat. While I disagree with mostly all of Surovell’s public policy vision for our area, he defends his positions well. The blog is well written and informative. This particular Surovell post caught my attention because it speaks to something that I find really offensive, unlawful discrimination.
Housing discrimination, indeed unlawful discrimination of any kind is wrong. And while our country has done an excellent job dealing with this problem, there will likely always be people who are incapable of treating people with dignity and respect. So, what bugged me about Surovell’s post? Surovell seems to accept the findings of the report, lock, stock, and barrel. Then Surovell concludes with this: “This is absolutely unacceptable. I am going to think about solutions to this problem as well.” Fair enough. But he needs to dig a little deeper before launching forward on this project, and accepting as true that, “Hispanic Housing is Alive and Well in Northern Virginia” (the title of his blog).
Yleem and I have never felt like outcasts or unwanted in this area; even our Democratic neighbors are very open to our conservative ideas and GOP outlook on this. Technically, we’re Americans of Hispanic ancestry. We speak English and Spanish fluently. However, we have never any problems with regards to discrimination because of our ancestral heritage. Quite the opposite. Virginia is a very welcoming state as is Northern Virginia.
If there are landlords that discriminate based on race, then they should be held accountable for doing so. However, we should not accept this report as gospel. What does a a Washington, DC-based public interest group and a Washington, DC-based law firm really know about problems facing Virginians, much less that Virginia has a discrimination problem? We have laws on the books for dealing with individuals or companies that do this. Let’s not jump the gun and start to pass new laws and regulations.
Surovell and others who use this study should seriously consider the sources and methods used by the Equal Rights Center to generate the recommendations. If our area has an problem with race-based discrimination, then something needs to be done about. Start with town hall meetings and listening sessions. Work with Arlington County and Fairfax County governments to see what data they have on file about these matters. Most importantly be responsible and do not poison the community discourse with just one report. Your only going to make it worse and hurt the people you purport to want to help.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue either; however, for the partisan in you, if we accept for sake of argument that the Equal Rights Center’s findings are correct, it turns out that the more urban areas of northern Virginia, a Democratic Party stronghold, are the most discriminatory areas in the state. While the Republican areas of the state, such as the Shenandoah Valley, had much lower levels of alleged discrimination. Dig a little deeper in the report, however, and you’ll find that this study has more to do with advancing immigration reform than it does housing matters.