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Fair Housing Program hopes to impact Athens

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Athens City Council received an update on the Fair Housing Program and the progress the organization has made in their outreach. Donald Eager represented the group at his presentation to the council on Monday night.

Several agencies already exist in Ohio; Eager is set on improving availability and influence for students at Ohio University.

“I have a feeling that now that we are getting towards the end of the school year, leases will be expiring, students will be leaving, and we’ll start getting a lot of calls about security deposits, and that sort of thing,” Eager said. “We are gearing up for next fall. We are hoping to put together a little packet of information … to give to Off Campus Housing that will help students who are going to rent. It will explain key issues of leases and what they should be keeping an eye out for.”

Eager started his report outlining the changes made to the Fair Housing brochures. They have been redesigned and reformatted with not only state and federal fair housing ordinances, but also the city’s, to help cross all branches of government for easy understanding. At-Large Rep. Chris Knisely asked Eager if there was a portable document format (PDF) available for the city to post on its website. Eager assured her that his company had created multiple formats, including Word, Word Perfect, and brochures so that the information was readily available; he also mentioned that there was a PDF available to the city.

Eager also described the training that his company has been providing. There have been two meetings with a third in the works. The first, designed for students and held in Baker University Center on Ohio University’s campus, was poorly attended; three landlords came to witness the student perspective and advice for avoiding discrimination. The second, more amply attended meeting was slated towards landlords and held in the Athens County Public library; “eight or nine” came, according to Eager. The third meeting for the Metropolitan Housing Authority (MHA) will be held next week.

Eager also described the work he and his company had been doing with university and campus organizations.

“Our focus really has been on OU and the students,” Eager said.

The company has been in contact with the student affairs department and with off campus housing. Eager has urged them to make referrals for students to his agency to help with lease and discrimination questions.

“We have been in contact with student groups and organizations so hopefully we will be able to help,” Eager said.

The 1-800 hotline established by Eager’s agency has begun to receive more calls (about twopera week). Eager is optimistic that this is a sign that students and citizens will take advantage of the program offered by his company.

“It takes a while to get geared up, but it is no big consequence that there have been so few calls. The program just got started back up,” Eager said.

Any questions regarding discrimination definitions, landlord-tenant disagreements or just general information should be directed to the hotline or to Eager’s agency.

“We plan as acting as a mediator between the two parties, and as an advocate for the consumer. That should not discourage landlords, however. We’ll work with them, too,” Eager said.

The agency’s contact info can be found here. Calls can be anonymous if the caller chooses.

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