By William C. Singleton III
For the Birmingham Times
The executive director of the Fair Housing Center for Northern Alabama (FHCNA) knows what it’s like to face housing discrimination—both as part of her job helping others and on a personal level.
When Lila Hackett’s husband was transferred by his job and the family moved to Dothan, Ala., in 1977, they found themselves searching for a home. They told their agent what they were willing to spend and asked him to show them homes in their price range.
“He kept carrying us to communities where the homes were much less than what we told him we were willing to spend, and we couldn’t figure out why,” Hackett said. “But then we realized all the communities he was taking us to were predominantly minority communities, and he refused to take us anywhere else.”
Eventually, the couple found another realtor “who wanted to make the commission,” she said laughing. “We ended up buying a house in a nonminority community.”
“Every time someone comes in to say they’ve been discriminated against, it’s not necessarily a fair-housing-discrimination complaint,” Hackett said. “Sometimes, it’s a landlord-tenant issue. Sometimes it’s a mere misunderstanding, and we can get on the telephone … and resolve the issue in less than five minutes.”
“What’s gratifying to me is seeing the results of our work when we’re able to resolve issues for families or just for individuals,” Hackett said. “I’ve been a victim of housing discrimination, so I know how it feels. Just to be able to resolve an issue for someone is gratifying.”