Screen shot 2016-04-12 at 10.30.30 AMShanna L. Smith has been the President/CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) for 26 years. She was previously the executive director of the Fair Housing Center in Toledo, Ohio, for 15 years. 

Under Ms. Smith’s leadership, NFHA has brought ground breaking cases challenging redlining by homeowners insurance companies and banks resulting in major changes to underwriting practices and has secured consent orders requiring six major builders to retrofit more than 30,000 apartments in 35 states.  Additionally, these settlements provided more than $4.5 million dollars in grants to help people modify their homes or apartments to make them accessible.  NFHA is currently challenging Bank of America,  U.S. Bank, Deutsche Bank, Fannie Mae and its field service vendors, Cyprexx, Asset Management Specialists and Safeguard (the largest preservation management company), alleging they discriminate in the way they handle the maintenance and sale of foreclosed homes in communities of color as compared to white neighborhoods. Ms. Smith was the lead negotiator in the $30 million dollar settlement with Wells Fargo where NFHA and 13 fair housing centers alleged that Wells Fargo failed to maintain its foreclosed homes in communities of color to the same standards as it did its homes in white neighborhoods.  From the settlement, $27 million dollars has been provided as grants in neighborhoods in 19 cities where the violations were identified.  The grants include downpayment assistance, creation of parks and playgrounds, rental assistance to keep families from being displaced in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Oakland, CA, and grants to rehab vacant properties for resale to moderate income persons.  Additionally, matching funds have been secured to build accessible for disabled veterans and modify existing homes to provide accessible features.  

NFHA conducted the first nationwide rental investigation to document how large apartment companies treat deaf and hard of hearing applicants and found a 25% rate of discrimination denying or limiting access to apartment to people who are deaf.  NFHA trained deaf students from Gallaudet University to be testers.  NFHA filed several discrimination complaints and Ms. Smith negotiated administrative resolutions totaling more than $600,000 and requiring companies’ to have all their staff trained on fair housing laws and how work with people with disabilities.  The National Association of the Deaf was a partner on this systemic investigation.

Currently, Ms. Smith is working with staff and legal counsel to file a federal lawsuit against a large insurance company that refuses to provide coverage for landlords who rent to Housing Choice Voucher holders (Section 8) in the District of Columbia where affordable housing is at a premium.

NFHA’s work is also focused on helping companies comply with the Fair Housing Act.  Ms. Smith works with major insurance companies and banks to help them comply with the Fair Housing Act by providing self-testing services, consulting on new policies and practices and collaborating on unique media messages to promote equal opportunity in housing.

Ms. Smith speaks frequently at conferences on fair housing issues and has appeared many times on national television programs discussing various forms of discrimination and ways to recognize and report suspicious housing, lending, insurance and sales practices.  She works closely on NFHA’s national media projects, education and outreach projects and enforcement activities.  She also provides training on fair housing, steering in the real estate sales markets and mortgage lending discrimination. She has authored numerous papers/chapters on identifying various forms of discrimination in insurance and lending.