Briefing: Much More Is Needed to Make Fair Housing a Reality
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 8/15/2005The nation is experiencing a "crisis of racial segregation" at a time when funding for and commitment to the enforcement of fair housing laws is in a "precipitous decline," according to a new report from the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) detailing the state of housing discrimination in the United States.
The 2005 Fair Housing Trends Report was presented at a July 19 briefing sponsored by, NFHA in collaboration with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) and Rep. Al Green, D. Texas.
The briefing came on the heels of a bipartisan effort by the House Appropriations Committee, led by Rep. Green, which restored $7.7 million in funding to the Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) and the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP). Despite the restored funding, the programs still saw a major decrease in funding overall from $46.5 million in FY05 to $38.8 million in FY06.
Fair housing advocates say funding for FHIP, the only source of federal funding for fair housing organizations, is essential to effective enforcement, as the majority of housing complaints are filed with private organizations and not government agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Supporters also say that funding of NFHA and its 'testing' programs - which provide the physical evidence and data to prove housing discrimination - as well as the collaboration of organizations like LCCREF and the Ad Council in the creation of public service announcements, help to alert the public to the very real problem of housing discrimination and encourages its victims to come forward and file complaints.
While NFHA's report found that in the past year only 27,319 complaints of housing discrimination were filed, the group estimates that more than 4 million instances of rental and sales discrimination take place each year.
"This discrimination contributes to the homeownership gap, which is greater now today than it was forty years ago," said Shanna Smith, President and CEO of NFHA.
Fair housing groups stress that housing diversity plays a critical role in accessing important societal and economic functions, including quality schools, jobs, and transportation.
In its report, NFHA estimated that close to $50 million in funding for FHIP is needed in order to begin addressing, in a serious and organized way, the level of housing discrimination that exists today.
NFHA says that with increased funding, fair housing groups will have the ability to assist more individuals, communities, and the housing industry in forming integrated neighborhoods free of discrimination.
"Some commentators say integration has failed," said Smith. "I say integration has yet to happen."