Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Glimpsing the Future of Fair Housing

This has been a pivotal year for the Fair Housing Act, as we have marked the 40th anniversary of the law that famously earned President Johnson's signature on April 11, 1968, exactly one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As with any anniversary, it has been a time not only to reflect on where we once were and how far we've come, but — even more importantly — where we should be headed and what roadmap will take us there.

Yesterday, coinciding with the anniversary and in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity released a much-anticipated report on the state of fair housing.

You may be surprised to learn that, according to the report:

More than four million instances of housing discrimination occur annually in the United States and yet fewer than 30,000 complaints are filed every year. In 2007, the 10 HUD offices processed 2,440 complaints, the 105 FHAP agencies processed 7,700 inquiries, and the 81 private fair housing agencies processed 18,000 complaints. Literally millions of acts of rental, sales, lending, and insurance discrimination, racial and sexual harassment discrimination, and zoning and land use discrimination go virtually unchecked. [Citation: Oral Testimony of Shanna Smith (Atlanta).]

So, where do we go from here?

The Commission offers a number of recommendations, aimed at increasing both the level and the efficiency of fair housing enforcement. Most notably, the Commission pushes for the creation of an independent fair housing enforcement agency to replace the existing enforcement structure at HUD. This new agency would have the staff, support, and resources "to make fair housing a reality."

The Commission's other recommendations include the revival of the President's Fair Housing Council; greater compliance with the Fair Housing Act's requirement that the government and its grantees "affirmatively further fair housing"; the strengthening of the Fair Housing Inititiatives Program (FHIP), which funds fair housing enforcement and education across the country; the adoption of a regional approach to fair housing; the emphasizing of fair housing principles in programs addressing the mortgage and financial crisis; the creation of a stronger fair housing awareness campaign; and the pursuit of a collaborative approach to fair housing issues.

When we look back another 40 years from now, perhaps it will be these recommendations that will have proven their merit in shaping the future of fair housing.

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