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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

ABC Drops Controversial "Neighborhood" Reality Show

Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 7/6/2005

ABC has pulled a reality TV series that sparked outrage from fair housing advocates, who said the show could give homeowners the idea they can engage in housing discrimination and stereotyping without any consequences.

Responding to ABC's decision, Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said, "We applaud the efforts of ABC to address complex issues of discrimination and prejudice in a creative and authentic manner. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, there were simply too many concerns about the format of the show and the unintended potential for confusing viewers about fair housing requirements. Canceling the show was the right thing to do and we commend ABC for their decision."

"Welcome to the Neighborhood," scheduled to debut July 10, would have shown seven diverse couples competing to win a beautiful dream home on a "perfect" suburban cul-de-sac in Austin, Texas. Each week of the six-week series, the competing families would have participated in a "challenge" given by three neighborhood families.

ABC's web site had stated that "the three neighborhood families who will be judging the competing families all love their quiet, picturesque community and are used to a certain kind of neighbor--one who looks and thinks just like them."

The families who would have chosen their neighbors are white. The competing families included an African American family, a Latino family, an Asian American family, and a white gay couple who has adopted an African American baby boy. ABC's web site described the other competing families as "a family who blend their Native American and Caucasian heritages with Pagan spirituality; a Caucasian family that looks picture-perfect; and "defying all stereotypes...a Caucasian family...covered in tattoos and are staunch Republicans."

Fair housing advocates said the show violated the "spirit and intent of the federal Fair Housing Act, " which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) President Shanna Smith said of the show, "Would Donald Trump fire someone because of their race, color, national origin or religion? Of course not. None of the other TV reality programs cross the line into civil rights violations."

But ABC said that the show's drama will come from how "each competing family ends up taking the neighborhood judges on an emotional journey that opens eye and hearts."

"It is great when television wants to air a show with provocative views, but it is important to do so in a responsible way and within the law. ABC did the right thing by pulling Welcome to the Neighborhood off the air," Smith said.