Other Views from Those in the Know
Discrimination in Housing Continues
As the nation moves closer to becoming a society in which people of color are the majority, systemic discrimination continues to curtail the housing choice of millions of people because of illegal bias based on race, national origin, color, disability, sex, familial status, religion, sexual orientation, source of income and other protected classes.
In 2011, the largest share of housing discrimination cases, about 44 percent, involved discrimination against people with disabilities. Discrimination involving race accounted for about 19 percent of all complaints while familial status accounted for 13 percent and national origin and sex each accounted for over 5 percent of all complaints. Private fair housing organizations also reported that over 10 percent of all complaints involved discrimination against people not currently protected under the federal Fair Housing Act.
“It is a travesty that we still see so much discrimination in our country more than 40 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Where we live determines so much about our daily lives including access to good schools, jobs, health care and transportation.”
“Discrimination not only shatters dreams, it creates inefficiencies and waste and stymies the kind of growth and creativity we desperately need to compete in a global society,” continued Smith. “No one profits when potential homebuyers or renters are turned away, not because of their ability to purchase or pay, but because of their national origin, skin color, sex, religion, familial status or because of a disability. Discrimination is not an American value.”
Federal, state and local agencies play an important role in combating housing discrimination. According to the NFHA report, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had banner years for enforcement. HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) has taken significant steps in recent years to improve its staffing, training, and case investigation work. FHEO has investigated several important fair housing cases of blatant discrimination against women and people with disabilities, and has made identifying failures to affirmatively further fair housing a top priority. DOJ’s Housing Section obtained consent decrees or favorable judgments in 60 cases, the largest annual number of pattern or practice cases filed and settled in at least 18 years.
NFHA and other civil rights organizations worked closely with HUD to ensure that protections from housing discrimination be extended to the nation’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. That happened under HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s leadership with the approval of new rules that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HUD-insured and HUD-assisted housing. The report examines NFHA member efforts to extend housing protections to undocumented residents; several states including Arizona and Alabama face legal challenges to an onerous set of laws that blatantly discriminate against residents because of their citizenship status and their national origin.
Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status in rental housing, real estate sales, lending, insurance and any financial or other services related to housing.
Cedric Ricks is communications associate with the National Fair Housing Alliance. To read NFHA’s 2012 Trends Report, go to www.nationalfairhousing.org
Published Wednesday, May 09, 2012