Illegal Housing Discrimination Endures
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 4/26/2003Instead of celebrating the successes that should have been attained by the 35th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF), and victims of housing discrimination gathered at a press conference to discuss the persistent problems of illegal housing discrimination revealed by the annual "Fair Housing Trends Report."
The 2003 report discloses that 25,246 complaints were filed nationwide in 2002, with the highest number of complaints filed by African-Americans and people with disabilities.
"However, this number is less than one percent of the estimated incidence of illegal housing discrimination that occurs each year in the United Sates," according to Shanna Smith, NFHA's President. "Thirty-five years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, discrimination persists virtually unchallenged. These low complaint levels signal a need for increased fair housing enforcement by the current administration."
Smith pointed out that while "enforcement changes behavior," without sufficient funds, enforcement does not occur and discrimination persists.
NFHA stressed that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is not giving private fair housing groups, who investigate and settle the majority of complaints, enough money for effective enforcement.
Victims of housing discrimination gave emotional accounts of their experiences. Joseph Ngagngum, an African man who was evicted from his apartment with every other black resident living in a Takoma Park apartment building, stated, "I came to America with dreams of equality and freedom and of moving forward. This makes me feel like we are all moving backward. ...It makes you feel like you are not a person - that if you are black you do not deserve a home. It has to stop."
Karen McGill Lawson, LCCREF's Executive Director, announced a new HUD-funded campaign launched by LCCREF, NFHA, and the Ad Council, Fair Housing National Multimedia Campaign, designed to educate consumers on illegal housing discrimination and to encourage victims of discrimination to seek redress.