The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
The Future of Fair Housing
- Table of Contents
- About the Commission
- Executive Summary
- I. Housing Discrimination and Segregation Continue
- II. Fair Housing Enforcement at HUD is Failing
- III. Fair Housing Enforcement at the Justice Department is Weak
- IV. The Need for Strong Fair Housing Programs
- V. Fair Housing and the Foreclosure Crisis
- VI. Federal Housing Programs
- VII. Fair Housing Obligations of Federal Grantees
- VIII. Regionalism and Fair Housing Enforcement
- IX. The President's Fair Housing Council
- X. Fair Housing Education: A Missing Piece
- XI. The Necessity of Fair Housing Research
- XII. Conclusion
- Appendix A: Emerging Fair Housing Issues
- Appendix B: International Disapproval of U.S. Fair Housing Policy
- Appendix C:
- Appendix D: Commission Witnesses and Staff
Fair Housing Education: A Missing Piece
Despite a great deal of creative effort by fair housing groups and many in the housing industry, fair housing remains too low in the public’s consciousness. Public education must include the basics—what the law requires, what the interpretations of the law are, what consumers need to know, and best practices for industry on how to be in compliance with the law and affirmatively further fair housing. We must bring to the public principles of housing equity, freedom of choice, and the value to the whole community of diverse and stable neighborhoods with jobs, transportation, health care and quality schools. Despite all of the evidence that deeply entrenched discrimination and segregation continue, and the evidence that large parts of our communities are at risk, there has been no national government leadership, and no national message, about the importance of attentiveness to these issues.
Public awareness of fair housing law is important because the federal approach to fair housing has relied heavily on action taken by individuals who believe they have suffered discrimination and file a fair housing complaint. How will these individuals know to file a complaint if they don’t know their rights? How will industry know how to comply with the Act unless we work to educate them?
Over the years, HUD’s educational program has relied primarily on under funded national media campaigns and sporadic and localized reports about enforcement and settlements.
There has been no coordinated national education and outreach effort directed at various constituencies: the public at large, potential victims of discrimination, or the various components of the housing industry. The sole industry training program is HUD’s FairHousingAccessibilityFIRST program, which was designed to inform the building industry about the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. HUD’s sum total of general educational material amounts to one booklet, "Your Rights and Responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act" and its own website.
Many in the housing industry have actively taken on the task of educating both the public and their constituents, including brokers, agents, and developers. It is crucial that this work be highlighted, supported, and enhanced. It is these industries that are in the housing business and success will come when the vast majority of housing professionals lives fair housing as their way of doing business.
As noted, many industry groups have already moved into the area of education; successful programs can be identified by a reformed fair housing office, replicated, and made available though the internet. The materials must include basic and advanced content. Many housing providers have developed relative sophistication in this area; many have not. A variety of different approaches will be needed to reach housing industry representatives of all types, including HUD-funded and tax credit properties. Some housing industry providers may need materials in language other than English or in accessible formats. The content of materials developed directly by HUD must be based on industry input to ensure that the materials serve their intended purpose effectively.
The materials that have been developed with HUD funds by private fair housing groups and state and local enforcement agencies are an untapped resource for basic education materials. A routine function of grant monitoring should be the collection of the videos, brochures, Power Point presentations, and other educational materials created through the FHIP and FHAP programs. There is currently no central system to collect, compile or review these materials, much less to identify the best of them and make them available to organizations and consumers. This basic step would require some staffing in a reformed office of fair housing to make sure that the materials were suitable for distribution under HUD’s auspices. Use of the internet to provide downloadable versions of material would conserve printing and duplication costs at the federal level.
HUD must stop its cramped approach to public education in other ways, too. In several recent years, HUD has even failed to provide the national educational campaign required by statute. The statute requires the Secretary of HUD to establish a national educational campaign, including a centralized, coordinated education effort using a variety of media products. Such a national campaign does not currently exist. The FHIP program has routinely announced a competition for a national media campaign but did not fund such a campaign in 2005 or 2006; it did not fund a private fair housing group to conduct such a campaign in 2007, a decision later challenged by HUD’s Inspector General.  Even when the program was funded, the amount was inadequate to develop and disseminate the types of materials that are needed to make a significant change in the public’s ideas about fair housing.
Finally, and most significantly, part of an effort by HUD and a reformed fair housing agency using FHIP and other federal funds to advance diverse communities will require a strong public message about why diverse, stable, strong communities are an important part of the promise that America gives to its residents. This approach is particularly important in bringing the residential choices of different racial and ethnic groups closer together.
Several Commission witnesses spoke to the effects of personal preferences on residential segregation, in the context of a private market that has been distorted by housing discrimination and government policies.
Private preferences can help to perpetuate segregation, but the hopeful news is that most Americans are willing (and many prefer) to live in integrated neighborhoods; and although the definition of what constitutes integration differs for members of different racial and ethnic groups, these preferences can be affected over time by new information and experience. Other Commission testimony suggested that neighborhood stereotypes often initially structure people’s choices in a non-integrative direction, but that these stereotypes can also be addressed through education and targeted neighborhood and school improvements, and that lack of information about racially diverse communities significantly contributes to racial segregation. These thoughtful analyses all strongly point to the important roles that the real estate industry, HUD, local governments, and private fair housing groups can play in educating consumers about the value of living in a diverse community and enhancing the attraction, and thus long-term stability, of diverse, inclusive communities. 
There is value to sending this message from the highest levels of government, to help counter the negative, exclusionary mentality that the country still sees from some national and local leaders. The housing industry has begun some of this work. State Farm’s homeowners insurance program has supported a public message entitled "A Richer Life" developed by the National Fair Housing Alliance to draw attention to the societal benefits of encouraging and accepting diversity in communities. Other organizations and localities, including the Village of Oak Park, Illinois, Shaker Heights, Ohio and a program operated by the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston have as their specific purpose community based programs to support diversity. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the National Fair Housing Alliance developed the "CommUNITY 2000" program to support positive community responses to housing-related acts of hate and violence. The "Not in Our Town" program in conjunction with PBS encourages a community response to hate crimes.
Next Section: Strengthen Fair Housing Education
 Residential Segregation and Housing Discrimination in the United States: Violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: A Response to the 2007 Periodic Report of the United States of America 21 (2008), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/usa/USHRN27.pdf,, finding that "HUD has failed to educate and inform United States residents about their rights and opportunities for redress under the Fair Housing Act. Based on data from HUD-commissioned studies, public knowledge of fair housing law did not improve between 2000 and 2005 despite some efforts by HUD to increase public awareness."
 Id., finding that "HUD provides virtually no educational materials for the general public about fair housing issues, and materials prepared by its grantees are not distributed nationally or made available by HUD to be replicated by other groups. Contrary to the Fair Housing Act, HUD failed to fund a national fair housing media campaign in fiscal years 2005 or 2006 and failed to provide funding to underwrite previous successful media campaigns." See also Martin D. Abravanel, Urban Inst., Do We Know More Now? Trends In Public Knowledge, Support And Use Of Fair Housing Law 19 (2006).
 For example, the National Association of Realtors has a strong campaign to advance diversity in their work and on their local boards as well as strong ethical requirements for its members that address fair housing considerations.
 Nat’l Council on Disability, Reconstructing Fair Housing 230 (Nov. 2001).
 42 U.S.C. § 3616a(d).
 HUD Inspector General, Report 2008-NY-0002, Weaknesses in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity’s 2007 Award Process for the Fair Housing Initatives Program-National-Based Media Campaign, http://www.hud.gov/offices/oig/reports/files/ig0820002.pdf.
 Testimony of Camille Zubrinsky Charles (Los Angeles), at 11, 12.
 Testimony of Ingrid Ellen (Boston), passim.
 Testimony of Maria Krysan (Chicago), at 3-4 ("The kinds of work currently being done by places like the Oak Park Regional Housing Center or done in the future by the start-up, MoveSmart.org, are two examples of organizations seeking to reduce these kinds of blind spots.").
 See also Testimony of James Robert Breymaier (Chicago)
 Nat’l Fair Hous. Alliance, A Richer Life, http://www.aricherlife.org.
 See, e.g., Testimony of John Suhrbier (Boston), at 1 (regarding the Boston program).
 Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, CommUNITY 2000, http://www.civilrights.org/campaigns/comm2000.
 Pub. Broadcast Serv., Not in Our Town, http://www.pbs.org/niot/index.html.