The Northern Marianas Housing Corp. hosted the islands’ first fair housing and accessibility training that ended yesterday and certified approximately 90 individuals.
According to NMHC executive director Jesse Palacios, two trainers from the U.S. mainland were brought to Saipan to educate the public about fair housing and the importance of housing accessibility “like the rights you have as a landlord and your rights as a tenant so we don’t discriminate.”
Palacios said the topic of fair housing and accessibility is not frequently discussed in the Commonwealth and it needs to be addressed because of its growing population and continuous development.
“With the increase in economic development, there will be more companies, more businesses and these businesses will be needing more employees so we’ll need more housing,” he said.
Palacios hopes that through this training, discrimination of landlords can be addressed and if they are not aware that they are discriminating, the training helps shed light on what exactly discrimination is when it comes to housing.
Palacios said the training gained the participation of many from the public, lawyers, government agencies like the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc., Zoning, Department of Public Works, and many private developers.
Guest trainer Mark English is president of E&A Team Inc., which he started 25 years ago. The company specializes in accessibility inspections, accessibility blueprint and housing plan reviews, accessibility construction inspections, and inspection on existing structures and multi-family housing, and inspection of commercial facilities for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
English said that accessible housing is not only important for people with disabilities, but it is also valuable for those who suffer from terminal illnesses, and for the elderly.
“Starting in 2011, 10,000 people a day are turning 65 years old and that is going to happen everyday all the way until the year 2030 and, as we get older, we tend to need more accessibility to things,” he said.
English said he wants to instill in his trainees some of the best practices to ensure affordable and accessibility housing on Saipan.
“We explained some best practices, kind of a takeaway because Saipan, from everything I can see, is on the verge of exploding with growth and there is going to be a lot of new housing built here,” he said.
The best practices English shared with his trainees were to have plans for housing development reviewed by an accessibility consultant; have an accessibility construction inspection; and have one more accessibility inspection once the building is fully completed.
Scott P. Moore of Baird Holm LLP also did a presentation on accessible housing during the fair housing and accessibility training.