On June 6, the HUD Office of Policy Development and Research released the first major study in 15 years of HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP). HUD is the primary enforcer of the Fair Housing Act. HUD supplements its own enforcement, education and outreach activities through the FHIP, which enables Fair Housing Organizations (FHO) to promote public awareness of the rights provided under the Fair Housing Act, and increases the capacity of FHOs to investigate fair housing complaints.
The study, based primarily on interviews with FHIP grantee organizations, finds a number of positive outcomes from the program. First, FHIP grantee organizations reduce the burden on HUD and state and local government agencies, as they evaluate complaints and determine which merit referral to HUD or local agencies. Only 15% of the 6,208 completed investigations in FY06 were reported to HUD or state and local agencies, while 43% were found to have no discriminatory practices, and 27% of the cases were resolved without being referred to HUD or FHAP. Only 1% of investigations actually resulted in a housing discrimination lawsuit. The report notes that respondents conducted an average of 155 investigations in FY06, of which 70% were financed using FHIP funds. Moreover, the report finds that complaints filtered and referred by FHIP grantees are more likely to result in a binding legal resolution, legal conciliation or a cause finding. Related to this, the authors find that complaints are also more likely to result in a cause finding or conciliation when FHIP organizations themselves are the complainant in a case.
Another finding of the report is that FHIP organizations remain the main entity testing landlords and realtors for fair housing violations and depend heavily on FHIP grants to fund these activities. Similarly, FHIP organizations were found to be critical to the investigation of complex cases, which the report identifies as fair lending, design and construction, pattern and practice, and zoning cases. Although they were involved in only 10% of HUD cases, FHIP organizations participate in 40% to 60% of these more complicated cases.
Since 1989, HUD has awarded 1,348 grants through the FHIP program, totaling $283 million, in three primary funding categories: 1) the Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI); 2) the Education and Outreach Initiative (EOI); and 3) the Fair Housing Organizations Initiative (FHOI). Two other funding categories have been cut from the program: the Administrative Enforcement Initiative (AEI; program active during FY89-95) and Secretary Initiated Projects (SIP; program active during FY99-04).
PEI grants support the enforcement of fair housing laws. This support includes processing discrimination complaints, investigations, and other fair housing law enforcement activities. Typically, PEI grantees conduct testing to demonstrate disparate treatment. EOI grants support Fair Housing education and outreach activities. FHOI grants increase the capacity of FHOs. AEI enabled state and local agencies to create special enforcement projects not tied to regular complaint processing, and SIP supported one-time testing activities.
According the study, PEI and EOI accounted for 89% of the total awards, at 610 (45%) and 580 (43%), respectively, while FHOI (8%), AEI (3%), and SIP (1%) accounted for the remaining 158 awards. The report breaks down the types of organizations where PEI, EOI, and FHOI grants were distributed. FHOs received 70% of grants, legal aid organizations received 15%, state or local governments received 12%, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) received 3%.
The report looks at the program from its inception in 1987 through 2006 (with some FY07 data). The study documents the history of FHIP and analyzes the type of grants awarded through the program, describes grant recipients and evaluates the outcomes of cases investigated by them. It also compares the outcomes of cases referred to HUD by grant recipients with those referred to HUD by other organizations.
Study of the Fair Housing Initiatives Program is available at http://www.huduser.org/Publications/pdf/FHIP_2011.pdf