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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

FAIR HOUSING PROGRAMS

FAIR HOUSING PROGRAMS

FAIR HOUSING PROGRAMS developed in Cleveland in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of the civil-rights movement to promote open, nondiscriminatory housing and integration. The city's growing population of AFRICAN AMERICANS were restricted to increasingly segregated, overcrowded neighborhoods such as HOUGH, GLENVILLE, MT. PLEASANT, and Central until the 1950s, when some residents began to look for homes in the suburbs. They encountered discrimination and prejudice: restrictive covenants, problems securing mortgages, white hostility, and, occasionally, violence. White residents in a few neighborhoods, however, such as Ludlow and Lomond in SHAKER HTS., worked to calm fears and promote integration (see LUDLOW COMMUNITY ASSN. and LOMOND ASSN.). A number of community-based "human rights" groups formed during the 1960s to promote open housing. Many joined together in Feb. 1964 to create the Fair Housing Council, a federation of neighborhood groups which, with funding from the Businessmen's Interracial Committee on Community Affairs, hired a housing coordinator in late 1965. It also helped people file complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The most active fair-housing organizations were Fair Housing, Inc., PATH (Plan of Action for Tomorrow's Housing), Operation Equality, and the Cuyahoga Plan.

Fair Housing, Inc., incorporated in Apr. 1962 by Joseph E. Finley, KENNETH W. CLEMENT, and Gilbert J. Seldin, aimed to open Cleveland's suburbs to African American buyers. Financed through the sale of stock at $10 a share, it hired a real estate broker, Stuart E. Wallace, to locate homes in white neighborhoods for blacks and to find homes in integrated communities for whites. Fair Housing, Inc., sold 350 homes, 199 to black families, before the stockholders decided in Sept. 1971 that their goals had been accomplished and voted to dissolve the agency.

The PATH Assn. developed from the Plan of Action for Tomorrow's Housing Committee, appointed in Sept. 1966 by the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation to investigate housing problems and to establish housing goals. In Mar. 1967 the 30-member committee, headed by attorney James Huston, issued the PATH Report. This argued that "the housing problems of the City of Cleveland and those of the suburbs are interrelated," outlined steps to improve the situation, and promoted neighborhood integration. To implement the proposals, board members formed the PATH Assn. on 16 Mar. 1967 and hired Irving Kriegsfeld as executive director. PATH worked with city government and the private sector to improve housing, especially in the inner city. It established the Contractor's Assistance Corp. to spur housing construction and rehabilitation, supported the Lee-Seville public-housing project, worked with realtors and with the insurance industry, lobbied federal and state legislators, and, in the 1970s, unsuccessfully sued 5 suburbs for racial discrimination. By mid-1974, unable to secure funding, PATH closed.

Operation Equality, a national program sponsored locally by the URBAN LEAGUE OF CLEVELAND, began in Nov. 1966 and worked closely with the Fair Housing Council. Financed by a 3-year, $1.5 million Ford Foundation grant, it maintained a list of open-occupancy housing and helped African American buyers and renters find homes. In Dec. 1967 Operation Equality began lobbying the 57 area communities to pass open-housing resolutions. As federal legislation and Supreme Court rulings made discrimination illegal, Operation Equality shifted to convincing real estate brokers to work with black buyers and to helping victims of discrimination file suits and complaints. Grants from the Ford and CLEVELAND FOUNDATION's supported Operation Equality during the early 1970s as it worked to obtain open-housing agreements from large apartment-management firms, promoted economic integration through the use of scattersite PUBLIC HOUSING in the suburbs, and served as a consultant for federal and local agencies. The program ended in 1975.

Since the mid-1970s, Cleveland's fair-housing watchdog has been the Cuyahoga Plan of Ohio, Inc., incorporated on 13 Mar. 1974. This private, nonprofit corporation began operation on 18 Nov. 1974 with $134,000 in grants from the Cleveland Foundation and GEORGE GUND FOUNDATION. It established a housing information service and negotiated with the real estate industry and with lending institutions to eliminate discriminatory practices. In the early 1980s, the Cuyahoga Plan released a series of housing reports which found continued improvement in the eastern suburbs' racial diversity, but not the western suburbs. These reports suggested that, despite gradual progress, Cleveland had remained "the second most segregated area in the nation." Since that time, the Cuyahoga Plan has implemented a regionwide enforcement program which invites the participation of municipal and county leadership in addressing the many forms of housing discrimination.


See also ETHNIC AND RACE RELATIONS.