Study Sheds Light on Housing Discrimination in Albemarle, Cville

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The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in sale and rental housing, but the Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA) found that not all organizations in Charlottesville and Albemarle are following that law.

The PHA recently released the results of a study it conducted.  The group says the results show there is a need for more fair housing education in the community.

The goal of the study was to test the community on its compliance with fair housing laws.  The testing was conducted by having individuals pretend to seek housing to gauge the practices of area markets.

The tests were based on three demographics - race, disability and families with children.

The study found that housing discrimination based on these three factors may limit the housing opportunities for the people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

"This is part of Fair Housing Program here in our region where we support people to make sure that they're not treated differently or discriminated against when they're looking for housing, either rental or buying a home," said Marguerite David, manager of the Fair Housing Program.

A total of 36 tests were completed in person and over the phone.

With these results in hand, the PHA hopes to raise awareness and promote compliance with fair housing laws.  

Piedmont Housing Alliance
Press Release

Fair Housing in Our Community

Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA) provides fair housing education, outreach and advocacy services, in its role as a Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). Last year, PHA engaged the services of HOME (Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc.) to conduct professional fair housing "testing" to gauge and report on local compliance with federal and state fair housing laws.


Fair housing tests were conducted in Charlottesville and Albemarle County in three areas: race (African-American and White), disability, and familial status (presence of children under 18). Tests were done in person at housing sites and on the telephone, for a total of 36 tests representing 56 housing transactions. The results indicate a need for greater fair housing education and advocacy in our community, to promote both awareness and compliance of these civil rights laws and equal housing opportunity.

Fair Housing Law

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the rental, sale, financing, insurance, and advertising of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability and familial status. The Virginia Fair Housing Law, enacted in 1971, prohibits discrimination based on these characteristics as well as elderliness (persons 55 years of age and older).

How Was the Testing Conducted?

A fair housing "test" is a planned interaction between a housing provider and an individual pretending to seek housing. Testing provides information that creates a snapshot of actual practices in a local housing market and helps identify areas of the housing market where discriminatory housing practices exist. In many cases, testing is the best way to uncover differential treatment in housing transactions.

Key Report Findings

Findings of this study indicate that housing discrimination based on race, disability and familial status may limit housing opportunities for people in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Key differences noted:

  • Discouragement and inconsistent application of procedures based on race (African-American & White)
  • Lack of awareness about rights of people with disabilities to reasonable accommodations and modifications
  • Discouragement and inconsistent application of procedures for families with children

Best practices were also noted, including a housing provider who positively referenced fair housing responsibilities.


The findings suggest the need for education in the following areas:

  • consistent application policies
  • standard application procedures
  • policies on reasonable accommodations and modifications
  • guidelines on non-discriminatory occupancy policies.

This information is valuable to local governments, public officials, housing providers, the housing industry and the public. It is a call to action to increase fair housing education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement.

Local Resources

Piedmont Housing Alliance's Regional Fair Housing Program promotes equal housing opportunity and combats housing discrimination, and is a resource for residents of Planning District 10 (Charlottesville City and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties). As the regional provider of fair housing education, outreach, and advocacy services, the goal of PHA's Fair Housing Program is to raise awareness and promote compliance with federal and state fair housing laws that protect our community from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, presence of children in the family, and elderliness in the rental, sale, and financing of housing. PHA's fair housing activities include advocating for victims of housing discrimination, responding to fair housing compliance questions, conducting fair housing education sessions, creating comprehensive educational materials and public awareness campaigns, and chairing the Regional Fair Housing Advisory Meetings. Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA) is a regional nonprofit organization with a mission to create housing and community development opportunities for very low to moderate income families and individuals, teach financial literacy and management, home buying and home ownership skills, and advocate for affordable housing policies and programs in central Virginia.

HOME, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc., a nonprofit organization, has been providing fair housing education, enforcement, and counseling services in Virginia since its incorporation in 1971. HOME's mission is to ensure equal access to housing for all people by using a holistic approach to overcome the barriers that limit housing choice. HOME's work is conducted in three housing centers, each of which focuses on a unique piece of the fight for fair housing: Center for Housing Advocacy, Center for Housing Education, and Center for Housing Leadership.

Acknowledgements: Funding for this audit report was provided through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Virginia Fair Housing Office (VHFO). The VFHO provides fair housing training and outreach throughout Virginia and is the investigative arm of Virginia's Fair Housing Board and Real Estate Board. The Fair Housing Board administers and enforces the Virginia Fair Housing Law for most individuals and businesses, and the Real Estate Board retains jurisdiction over real estate licensees and their employees. Both boards are overseen by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR).