Fair Housing Groups Document Spike in Housing Complaints
May 4, 2009 - Posted by Corrine Yu
More than 40 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, housing discrimination continues to be a problem, according to the National Fair Housing Alliance's (NFHA) annual report on fair housing enforcement (PDF).
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. It covers the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, as well as housing-related transactions such as advertisements and insurance.
Last year, 30,758 complaints of housing discrimination were filed, a nearly 14 percent increase from the previous year, and the highest number filed in a single year since the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started keeping track in 1990. NFHA attributed the spike in the number of complaints to the deepening foreclosure crisis, as well as internet ads that violate fair housing laws.
However, the number of complaints filed doesn't reflect the enormity of the problem. HUD estimates that fewer than one percent of housing discrimination occurrences are actually reported.
In the report, NFHA makes recommendations for improving the enforcement of fair housing laws, such as establishing an independent fair housing enforcement agency, enhancing HUD's ability to process complaints more quickly, providing additional funding for private fair housing organizations, and pushing the Justice Department to prosecute more predatory lending cases.
The report comes on the heels of Fair Housing Month, which was established in April to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968 and educate Americans about the importance of fair housing enforcement.