WASHINGTON – This year marks the 49th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, landmark legislation that became law on April 11, 1968. Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) kicked off Fair Housing Month 2017 at its national headquarters. This year’s theme is Fair Housing Equals Opportunity, highlighting equality in housing as a foundation upon which aspirations can be achieved and affirming the Fair Housing Act’s ongoing role in confronting housing discrimination.
The opening celebration included remarks by HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Malcolm “Mike” E. Peabody Jr., who devoted his federal career to finding viable solutions to challenging public policy issues. While serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing in the Nixon Administration, Mr. Peabody developed the blueprint for Housing Choice Vouchers, the federal housing voucher program giving low-income families greater housing options and formerly known as Section 8.
“Equal access to housing is a fundamental promise of America,” said HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Bryan Greene, who introduced the speakers. “When access to housing is unfairly limited, it, in turn, limits access to good paying jobs, quality schools, and economic opportunity.”
Through an array of enforcement activities, fair housing policy initiatives, and education and outreach efforts, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity continues to take action against individuals and housing providers that discriminate. Last year, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program partner agencies received more than 8,000 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Fair Housing Act’s seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
Every type of discrimination robs individuals and families of their right to choose where to live, but one form of discrimination HUD is particularly active in addressing is discrimination against families with children, known as familial status discrimination. Each year, approximately 12 percent of complaints are filed with HUD alleging this type of discrimination. State and local fair housing groups that partner with HUD in fighting discrimination also describe familial status discrimination as being one of their priority areas, as anecdotal evidence shows that it is often a proxy for race discrimination. In addition to the loss of housing, this type of discrimination has a destabilizing effect that prevents families from positioning themselves in ways that enable the next generation to take advantage of all this country has to offer.
HUD is using a number of enforcement tools to expand access to housing choice for families of all sizes, as well as individuals. HUD pursues both Secretary-initiated and consumer-driven complaint enforcement actions to make a wider impact. HUD also directs part of the $42 million in fair housing enforcement and outreach grants it awards each year through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) toward addressing discrimination against families with children. Moreover, a national media campaign developed by a FHIP organization reached major markets across the nation with ads identifying different types of housing discrimination and how to identify it.
Throughout the month, HUD and its state and local fair housing partners will organize local fair housing month celebrations, seminars, and public education events that promote the ideals of fair housing. People who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and EqualOpportunity at (800) 669-9777. Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.