Highlights efforts to fight housing discrimination and promote inclusive, diverse communities
WASHINGTON – A Massachusetts family is billed by the landlord when children play in an outdoor common area and are fined when they file a fair housing complaint. An Alabama landlord is charged with turning off the water and evicting a white family because one tenant has an African-American boyfriend. An Illinois university student who is vision impaired and epileptic is refused dormitory housing because she has a trained service dog. HUD and private groups bring these and other discrimination cases under the Fair Housing Act, 42 years after it became law in April 1968. In honor of Fair Housing Month, celebrated each April, HUD has declared 2010 a “Time to Act!”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in housing transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or familial status. Each year HUD and communities and organizations across the country recognize Fair Housing Month by hosting an array of activities that enhance the public’s awareness of their fair housing rights and highlight the national commitment to end housing discrimination. The theme for this year’s activities, “Fair Housing in 2010: Time to Act,” reflects the urgent need to ensure fair housing.
“Discrimination based on how you look, the religion you practice, or because you have children or are disabled is illegal and unacceptable,” said John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD. “In the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April 1968, President Johnson moved for passage of the Fair Housing Act to bring the nation forward and together. Since then, we have made progress but there remains work to be done. It is time to act.”
HUD’s fair housing initiatives include expanding its efforts to work with states and local communities to reinforce a federal requirement that they promote diverse, inclusive housing opportunities when spending federal funds. The Department, for the first time ever, is examining the prevalence of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and discrimination based on a tenant’s use of government assistance to pay rent.
In the last year, HUD:
- Brokered a landmark settlement agreement in a case that alleged Westchester County, New York, made false claims to the federal government when it made civil rights certifications required to receive funding. The certification requires the County to provide greater housing opportunities and choice for its minority residents in non-minority communities, free from discrimination. Westchester County subsequently agreed to build 750 units of affordable housing in areas with very low minority concentration. HUD and Westchester County are now working together to ensure that the settlement produces a clear strategy for promoting diverse, inclusive communities.
- Expanded its efforts to ensure that HUD dollars going to communities are invested in job opportunities for low-income residents and public housing residents, and contracts for companies employing them. Under Section 3 of the HUD Act, for the first time, over 3,000 state and local agencies are now reporting their job creation actions to HUD.
- Worked with local fair housing agencies to obtain more than $8 million in relief for victims of housing discrimination in lending, rental and sales of real property. In addition, HUD and these local agencies obtained other types of relief, including the creation of housing opportunities; changes in the policies and procedures of housing providers and lenders; reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities; affirmative marketing of their housing opportunities; and fair housing training for housing providers.
- Unveiled an enhanced website to help individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) gain greater access to HUD programs and activities. HUD’s expanded LEP website features translations of more than 100 brochures, fact sheets, forms, model leases, and other documents into 16 languages. The translated documents are available on HUD’s website: www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
HUD also launched a new website to allow individuals to comment of an unprecedented national study that will examine housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Comments received in town hall meetings, and those gathered from this new website, will inform HUD on the best ways to test for housing discrimination targeted against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender individuals and couples.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).