NFHA Fair Housing Trends Report Finds Increase in Discrimination Complaints

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released its 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report: Defending Against Unprecedented Attacks on Fair Housing, which found the number of housing discrimination complaints in 2018 was the highest of any year since NFHA started collecting data in 1995. The report also details the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Fair Housing Act as well as some fair housing successes.

In 2018, 31,202 complaints of housing discrimination were filed, representing an 8% increase from 2017. As in previous years, nonprofit fair housing groups processed the majority of these complaints (75%), while local, state, and federal agencies handled about a quarter of all complaints. More than half of the complaints filed were related to disabilities, and nearly 20% were related to race. NFHA found an increase in cases accusing housing providers of sexual harassment and preying on residents unable to move because of a lack of affordable housing options. This increase is likely due more to heightened awareness of the issue than an increase in harassments. Hate crimes also increased with more than a quarter of these incidents occurring near the victims’ homes. 

Changes in technology can both expand opportunity and promote discrimination. NFHA and its members have been working to ensure fair housing is incorporated in technologies used for housing-related transactions. Biases and policies rooted in discrimination are reflected in algorithms and other technologies that influence access to housing and lending opportunities. NFHA and three of its members filed a lawsuit in March 2018 against Facebook for allowing housing providers to discriminate in their advertising on the social media platform. The challenge resulted in changes to Facebook’s advertising tools for housing, employment, and credit opportunities.

The report highlights other success from the past year as well as the Trump administration’s attacks on the Fair Housing Act, notably its proposed changes the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) and Disparate Impact rules. NFHA rejects HUD’s sole focus on zoning changes as a means to integrate communities and affirmatively further fair housing and urges the agency to reinstate the 2015 AFFH regulation. NFHA also recommends HUD reinstate the Disparate Impact rule and asks Congress to strengthen the tool, particularly for addressing technology-based discrimination.

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