HUD submitted its Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Annual Report on the State of Fair Housing in America to Congress on November 7. The report includes information regarding the prevalence of different types of discrimination in housing and HUD’s actions to combat discrimination. In submitting the report to Congress, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Gustavo Velasquez, said “Housing discrimination has a profound and lasting impact on its victims, as access to housing affects not only where individuals and families live, but the education, employment and other opportunities that are available to them.”
HUD investigates allegations of discriminatory housing practices, as do state and local governments that participate in HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP). In the two-year FY12 and FY13 period, HUD and its FHAP partners investigated 17,186 complaints, down from 19,509 complaints received during the FY10 and FY11 period. The number of Secretary-initiated complaints filed by HUD doubled from 18 during the FY10 and FY11 period to 36 during the FY12 and FY13 period. Secretary-initiated complaints are filed by the HUD Secretary and typically involve a broader systemic issue rather than a particular instance of discrimination.
Compared to the FY10 and FY11 period, the share of complaints regarding discrimination on the basis of disability increased considerably, while the proportion of complaints of discrimination on the basis of race declined. The shares of complaints regarding discrimination on the basis of familial status and national origin remained relatively constant. During the FY12 and FY13 period, victims of housing discrimination received more than $425 million in compensation.
In order to better understand the prevalence of housing discrimination on the basis of race, HUD released a study examining discrimination against black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers (see Memo, 6/11/13). The study found that while minority homebuyers and renters were just as likely as white homebuyers and renters to get an appointment to learn more about a unit upon request, agents informed minorities about fewer homes, thus restricting their awareness of the full spectrum of housing options. The results of the study suggest that the blatant racism of earlier eras, in which sellers and agents may have refused to meet with minorities, has been replaced by more subtle forms of discrimination.
HUD also commissioned a study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the rental market. (see Memo, 6/21/13). The study found that same-sex couples are more likely than heterosexual couples to experience adverse treatment and that housing providers are less likely to engage in dialogue with same-sex couples. State laws prohibiting discrimination against same-sex couples had no effect on the treatment they experienced. In fact, same-sex couples were treated slightly worse in states with laws prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In February 2012, HUD published the final version of the “Equal Access Rule,” which prohibits restriction of access to housing assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage ensured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status (see Memo, 2/3/12). HUD reached its first settlement under this rule in January 2013, in a case in which Bank of America denied an FHA-insured mortgage to a lesbian couple in Florida (see Memo, 1/14/13).
HUD took steps to combat lending discrimination by helping to achieve settlements in cases in which minorities, disabled individuals, and women who were pregnant or on maternity leave were unfairly denied mortgage financing.
HUD made strides toward clarifying the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) obligations of cities, towns, and municipalities that receive HUD funding by publishing a proposed rule that contains a clearer definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing, and a proposed assessment template to provide a framework for participants to identify barriers to their pursuit of fair housing (see previous article).
In April 2013, HUD, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), released new guidance on the component of the Fair Housing Act that requires that all multifamily housing units built for initial occupancy after March 1991 contain features that make them accessible to disabled individuals (see Memo, 5/3/13). HUD and DOJ intended for the new guidance to help designers, developers, and builders understand their obligations under the Fair Housing Act so they will be better able to meet them. HUD sought to further protect the rights of disabled individuals by issuing a notice emphasizing that housing providers are required to make reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals who need service animals (see Memo, 5/3/13).
HUD bolstered its fair housing efforts with advertising and outreach centered on fair housing issues. HUD and Hewlett Packard released a housing discrimination app for iPhone and iPad in February 2013 (see Memo, 3/1/13). App users can easily access information about fair housing rights and even file fair housing complaints through the app. In addition, HUD partnered with the National Fair Housing Alliance for a national media campaign called “Fair Housing Is Your Right. Use It.” The campaign ran advertisements in printed publications, on social media, and over the radio to raise awareness of housing discrimination and educate victims about their potential means of redress.
Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Annual Report on the State of Fair Housing in America is available at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=2012-13annreport.pdf