Fair Housing in Cincinnati: The Records of Housing Opportunities Made Equal

HOME Bus Advertisement, undated

In 1969, Mrs. Estelle Busch attempted to rent an apartment in Avondale, but was unable to secure an appointment to view the property.  A short time later Mrs. Ruth VanDerzee viewed the apartment and was assured her deposit would be accepted.  Mrs. Busch was black.  Mrs. Vanderzee was white.[1]

In 1990, Joanna Ahlers attempted to acquire an apartment for herself and her two children in Milford, Ohio.  An apartment manager told Ahlers that a 2 bedroom apartment would be available soon, and Ahlers offered to put a deposit on the apartment.  When the manager discovered that Ahlers had children, she told Ahlers that she was not renting to families with children and refused to rent the apartment to her.[2]

In 2005, an elderly woman was pressured to refinance her home.  A predatory lender told her she had to sign a contract immediately to avoid losing the “good” rate.  The loan actually had a high interest rate and unfavorable terms, which would have caused financial hardship for her.[3]

Home Bus Advertisement, circa 1980s

In each of these cases, the victims were assisted by Housing Opportunities Made Equal, better known as HOME, a local non-profit organization that specializes in fighting discrimination in housing.  Although the organization originally focused on ensuring fair housing for racial minorities, today they seek to stop all illegal housing discrimination, including discrimination against families with children, people with physical or mental disabilities or discrimination due to religion or gender.  In the past few years, HOME has also sought to stop predatory lending and worked to educate realtors, lenders, insurers, and the public about fair housing laws.

Fair Housing Day Proclamation, 1985, Mayor Charlie Luken and Karla Irvine, Executive Director of HOME

The Archives and Rare Books Library holds HOME records from the 1960s through 2009, documenting the history of this organization and the fight for fair housing in Cincinnati.  The records include case files, research, newspaper articles, educational materials, board minutes, and annual reports, and encompass approximately 350 linear feet.  A new addition to this collection was acquired by ARB this summer and includes a substantial amount of material from 2000 through 2009.  Along with board minutes, fair housing publications, lists of legal cases, and copies of advertisements, there is material regarding HOME’s involvement in educating citizens about predatory lenders.  The newest material also highlights the increase of housing discrimination against Hispanics in Cincinnati in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The finding aid for the newest portion of the HOME records (Accession Number US-10-04) can be found at http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/OhCiUAR0216.    Finding aids for several of the other collections are available on the Archives and Rare Books Library website at http://www.libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/archives/collections/HOME.html.  Complete information on the collection is available in hard copy in the Archives and Rare Books Library.  More information about the history and current work of HOME is available on their website at http://www.cincyfairhousing.com/.

[1] “Denied Rental, Woman Claims,”  Cincinnati Post and Times Star, July 24, 1969 available in the Municipal Reference Library Vertical Files, US-04-09, Folder XA 31 mc Racial Aspects of Housing: Segregation, etc..

[2] “Ahlers v. Pritchard Brothers, et. al” News From HOME, Winter Edition 1991, Housing Opportunities Made Equal records, US-10-04.

[3] HOME Annual Report 2005, Box 3, Folder 39, Housing Opportunities Made Equal records, US-10-04