“I am aware of a
couple of big cases that have come out of this organization and
so that is why I’m really looking forward to seeing this
documentary,” said Velásquez in his opening remarks.
organization has advanced its work of providing equal
opportunity in housing in this area and the opportunity to share
with you what our priorities are and make sure we are in sync
with the things they are doing on the ground.”
Velásquez was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the
U.S. Senate last fall to work directly under HUD Secretary
the popular former mayor of San Antonio and labeled by many to
be a rising star within the Democratic Party.
Just last week, HUD reached voluntary compliance agreements with
a Missouri housing authority after federal investigators found
failed to provide persons with disabilities and individuals with
limited English proficiency meaningful access to its HUD-funded
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or
activity receiving federal financial assistance. In addition,
Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination
on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and
activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“(The) agreements demonstrate the department’s ongoing
commitment to ensuring that eligible families have equal access
to HUD-funded housing programs, regardless of whether they have
a physical disability or don’t speak English well,” said
Velásquez in a statement. “HUD will continue to work with public
housing authorities to help them meet their obligation to comply
with federal laws.”
That kind of policing will become increasingly important in the
Glass City for both HUD and the Toledo Fair Housing Center, as
the Latino population continues to grow. Toledo’s Latino
residents now comprise ten percent of the city’s population,
with an estimated 20,000 undocumented individuals living in the
metro area. Most of those undocumented families are non-English
speaking, according to the Welcome Toledo-Lucas County
Mr. Velásquez is a native from México but he has lived in the
United States for decades. He served as the Special Assistant to
the undersecretary of Planning, in the Mexican Department of
Agriculture, and as Regional Coordinator in the Office of
Environmental Compliance in the Mexican Department of
Environment and Natural Resources.
Prior to his federal appointment, Velásquez was executive
director of the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC),
a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to serving
thousands of Latino immigrants and other underserved populations
to gain the necessary skills and capital to start and maintain
their own businesses. LEDC also advocates for and supports
communities to secure affordable and accessible housing.
Velásquez also spent seven years as director of the District
of Columbia Office of Human Rights, where he led the
enforcement provisions of one of the most comprehensive
non-discrimination laws in the country. He also served 2003 to
2007 as DC’s director of the Office of Latino Affairs.
Prior to moving to the nation’s capital, Velásquez served as
both operations director and director of the Division of
Families and Neighborhood Development at Congreso de Latinos
Unidos, the leading social service provider to Latinos in
has served on numerous boards and advisory groups at local and
national levels, with an emphasis on civil rights and
educational organizations, as well as issues for the advancement
of Latinos in the U.S. He graduated from the University of
Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in political science and
public administration, as well as a master's degree in
government administration. Velásquez also completed the
university’s Wharton School of Business
Management and Organizational Transformation.
He now lives in
Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.
The Toledo Fair Housing Center started when a group of
women, including Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, in the Old
West End noticed housing discrimination occurring in their
neighborhoods. They formed a board and obtained funding.
The Toledo Fair Housing Center is a now a non-profit
civil rights agency dedicated to the elimination of housing
discrimination, the promotion of housing choice, and the
creation of inclusive communities of opportunity.
The agency filed more lending lawsuits in its first decade of
existence than the U.S. Dept. of Justice, according to Shauna
Smith, the original executive director of the Toledo Fair
Housing Center who is now the president/CEO of the National
Fair Housing Alliance in Washington, DC. The center also
filed the country’s first sexual harassment in housing complaint
and brokered what Ms. Smith called “landmark real estate
“The Toledo Fair
Housing Center pioneered very important lending cases, appraisal
cases, sexual harassment cases, as well as some insurance
cases,” Ms. Smith said during a press conference before the
documentary premiere. “Now the center is working closely with us
to bring suits against the banks for not maintaining foreclosure
homes in communities of color the way they do in white
Michael P. Marsh
is the current president and CEO.
A Cleveland attorney
that specializes in fair housing, Diane Citrino of the
law firm of Giffen & Kaminski, attended and informed La
Prensa: “I was inspired to see the sweeping scope of what
the Toledo Fair Housing Center has accomplished from its
founding to the present. It is always good to be reminded how
together we can accomplish so much in the fight for housing
justice.” Attorney Citrino speaks Spanish and has handled
numerous housing cases involving Latinos.
Toledo Fair Housing
Center board member Louis Escobar and Theresa Morris,
a staff member of Congresswoman Kaptur’s office, also attended
the gala event, along with Rico Neller of La Prensa.
Georgio’s Café International next-door to the Valentine
Theater, catered the elegant affair.
“The Toledo Fair
the history of the fair housing center and its roots, as well as
tells stories of the landmark cases the agency has won and its
relationship with national organizations. The documentary will
be featured as part of the public TV station’s “Toledo Stories”
series and is scheduled for airing on Thursday, April 30 at 8:00
provided $40,000 in funding to underwrite both the celebration
and making of the documentary. Several company executives were
in attendance at the anniversary gala.