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For 38 years, the Toledo Fair Housing Center has fought the good fight: It has helped protect renters and home-buyers from discrimination while, in a broader sense, encouraging narrow-minded thinkers to be more accepting of women, minorities, and other disenfranchised groups.
Both are works in progress. As Michael Marsh, the center’s president and chief executive said: “Historical patterns of discrimination take a long time to overcome.”
On Thursday, more than 100 people gathered inside the Toledo Club to recognize two more people the organization has hailed as local champions of civil rights: Hugh Grefe of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez.
Both are key allies of the center, which Mr. Marsh said has investigated more than 11,000 cases of housing discrimination since the center was created in 1975.
The center’s work has resulted in $28 million in fines and other penalties against those who violated housing laws. Much of the money has gone to support victims and the center’s ongoing work, Mr. Marsh said.
“I don’t think it’s too much, nor is it too arrogant, to say it’s nice to be on the right side of history. And this is the right side of history,” said Mr. Grefe as he was presented with the center’s annual housing development award.
Mr. Grefe is LISC senior executive director for Toledo and other Northwest Ohio operations. LISC is the nation’s largest community development support corporation.
He has overseen investments of more than $92 million in some of Toledo’s most distressed neighborhoods. The corporation’s work has helped produce nearly 1,600 homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space.
Ms. Lopez, one of several announced candidates for Toledo mayor, was presented the enforcement/litigation award. She was the center’s general counsel early in her career. She recalled defending a single woman from a landlord who had tried to get sexual favors in lieu of rent. The man eventually was convicted.
“I truly believe if I had not started there, I wouldn’t have been as successful as a public official,” Ms. Lopez said. She said government can be effective and “make a difference” when officials do their jobs.
The ceremony also recognized the 45th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act, which former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in 1968. The act is viewed as a turning point for housing discrimination.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.