History

The Tennessee Fair Housing Council is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is the elimination of housing discrimination in Tennessee. The Council has been operating since its opening in 1995 with funds from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Council began as a project of the Kentucky Fair Housing Council in Louisville, Ky., and its first local director was Joel Emerson. From its inception to April 2004, it was located in the 100 Oaks Office Tower at 719 Thompson Lane in Nashville and is now at 107 Music City Circle, in the Opryland area. 

The Council's first major project, beginning in July 1995, was the implementation of a $165,000 grant from HUD for recruitment and training of qualified staff for fair housing testing, complaint intake and processing, office support, and administration. In addition, a considerable amount of time and resources was applied toward community organization and education and outreach as it applied to fair housing.

Over the course of the 18-month grant the center was able to do extensive recruitment and training of staff and 20 testers for the testing program. Center staff performed 101 fair housing tests covering different facets of the housing industry such as rental, insurance and mortgage, and covering several different protected class areas such as race, disability and familial status. The majority of the testing program was systemic in nature. However, appropriate testing was performed when complaints merited it. The center received 47 complaint calls, many which were employment or tenant/landlord related and were referred to the appropriate agencies. All complaints that were fair housing related were pursued and investigated.

The center's staff were very active filing complaints and court cases on the behalf of the agency as well as representing clients. The TFHC filed four complaints with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and subsequently with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In September 1995, the Council received a second grant from HUD to operate the National Fair Housing Advocate Online, an Internet web site devoted to providing fair housing information and resources to consumers, fair housing advocates and housing industry professionals. The Advocate Online was the first major on-line education and outreach tool of its kind. The site now has, among other things, a home page featuring current news related to housing and other discrimination issues; a discussion forum, which allows users of the site to interact with one another; and a legal research section, which has the full text of the Fair Housing Act and other statutes, HUD's fair housing regulations, and a searchable database of fair housing law.

In November 1998, the Council was awarded a $350,000 Fair Housing Initiatives Program Private Enforcement Initiative grant to provide assistance to individuals who believe they have experienced housing discrimination through investigation, counseling about complainants' rights under applicable state and federal law, conciliation and referral to attorneys or other agencies where appropriate. The Council also engages in outreach and education about fair housing and in both systemic and complaint-based testing. That contract ran through January 2001.

The Council received several subsequent HUD grants through fiscal year 2005. It was recently awarded an FY 2008 grant and will soon start on this three-year project.

The Council has received several other grants from HUD and continues to operate its enforcement program and the NFHAO web site.