The Office of Civil Rights was created in 1995 as a human rights umbrella agency responsible for enforcing and coordinating several anti-discrimination ordinances in the City of Boston. The office of Civil Rights enforces the city’s Fair Housing, Human Rights and CORI ordinances, which fall under two main program areas:
- The Fair Housing Commission and
- The Human Rights Commission
The Fair Housing Commission (FHC), founded in 1982, works to eliminate discrimination and increase access to housing. The five member board conducts housing discrimination hearings, and may levy fines and damages. The Investigation and Enforcement unit looks into possible cases of discrimination and brings forward those with probable cause. FHC also operates a robust Affirmative Marketing Program to ensure that housing developments receiving city assistance have fair tenant selection and marketing plans.
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has a mayoral appointed board working to fulfill a mission that all persons are treated fairly and equally. The HRC coordinates or facilitates investigation of complaints of discrimination in the workplace, credit transactions, education, and public accommodations. When necessary they hold investigatory hearings, and the conciliation of complaints. The HRC, after being dormant, has recently been reactivated, and currently investigates complaints under the city’s CORI Ordinance, which requires that persons and businesses supplying goods or services to the City of Boston deploy fair policies throughout the hiring process related to the screening and identification of persons with criminal backgrounds through the CORI system.
The Fair Housing Commission’s (FHC) Metrolist program, its investigation & enforcement ability, and its judicial authority are required by a 1991 court agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This agreement was part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against HUD by the Boston Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The agreement also requires that the city uses a portion of its annual Community Development Block Grant to fund the FHC.
TOP THREE CHALLENGES MOVING FORWARD:
1. Human Rights & Jobs for ex-offenders
Re-establishing a Human Rights Commission and filling our seven member board by mayoral appointment, to aid in developing a human rights agenda that complements the work of the fair housing commission, and helps to build an inclusive city where progress and diversity is spread throughout all of our neighborhoods. Furthering the spirit of the city’s CORI ordinance to improve the chances that all residents can find meaningful employment, even when impacted by negative CORI screening results.
2. Increase access to housing opportunities for families and other protected classes.
Boston is a growing, thriving city, middle income and family sized housing units are in high demand. However too many families with children face obstacles in finding housing dues to rising costs, but also due housing discrimination rooted in housing units that are not lead safe. With more than 50% of our housing stock being built prior to 1950, we must make our housing safer and more accessible by comprehensively addressing the cost issues around de-leading, by outreach and education around de-leading resources, fair housing awareness, and the dangers of lead paint to our children.
3. Fair Housing & Community Planning
Our city is diverse, but not as integrated as we would hope or expect, and the quality of life is not up to our standards in all parts of Boston. We are challenged to increase the diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods and schools, while eliminating disparities in health outcomes, job access, housing choice, public safety, and quality of life.