The Housing Choice Game

Organization Name:
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center
City & State:
Describe your creative piece – what is it and what has it been used for, and why is it innovative?
The Housing Choice Game is an interactive board game that simulates the experience of housing discrimination and its impact on a family’s access to education, employment, healthcare and amenities. Played by 4th and 5th graders in New Orleans, the game educates about fair housing and empowers youth to take action. Students draw Character Cards, which assign information about household, income, and individual needs, and then apply for housing using newspaper classifieds and a map. Some characters encounter discrimination based on race, religion, disability, family status, sex or national origin, and via Situation Cards these characters encounter more barriers to success than those who get a house that meets their needs. The game represents the first time a fair housing center has created a board game as an educational tool. It may serve as a model for educators and advocates who seek to engage youth in dialogue about systemic inequity, access to opportunity, and root causes of poverty.
What issue or problem were you working to address with this piece?
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is a private, non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to eradicating housing discrimination through education, investigation and enforcement activities. Recent studies by GNOFHAC show that housing discrimination is still a frequent occurrence in the greater New Orleans area. For example a 2007 audit showed a 58% rate of discrimination against African-Americans, and a 2009 audit showed widespread discrimination against people with disabilities. Historically, GNOFHAC has conducted outreach in the form of fair housing education to first-time homebuyers, landlords, service providers, and other adult community members. Because of the way that housing discrimination impacts families, staff have sought for some time to expand outreach efforts to youth. GNOFHAC believes that youth should be educated about housing discrimination so that they may become advocates for diversity and watchdogs for injustice in their communities.
How has your submission successfully impacted your organization’s ability to solve this issue/problem?
GNOFHAC staff worked closely with educators to address the need for educational resources around fair housing for youth. The Housing Choice Game successfully left students with a working knowledge of the Fair Housing Act, as well as an understanding of how where one lives affects how one lives by expanding or limiting access to resources. Staff received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students: “I learned a lot about fair housing… especially that discrimination needs to be stopped!” and “I had so much fun learning and trying to make a difference… I learned that people can discriminate you (sic) by disability, family status, sex (and) race.” Even those who did not experience discrimination learned the importance of housing choice: “I think getting the first house we wanted helped us win. We got all good situation cards. We just got the house because the landlord was racist. Which makes me feel cheated.” GNOFHAC hopes to share this innovative tool with advocates and educators.