Funding Bill Attacks Local and National Efforts to Fight Discrimination
WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 11, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved a funding bill late Tuesday that will prohibit local fair housing agencies and HUD from effectively enforcing the Fair Housing Act on multiple fronts. Lawmakers approved language that eliminates federal grant funding to local nonprofit fair housing centers making it easier for banks, landlords, and other housing providers to discriminate with impunity. The bill also included language blocking HUD’s nearly final Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, and its disparate impact rule, both of which are important tools to stop illegal housing discrimination and promote safe and stable communities.
“This bill attempts to undermine all of our efforts to achieve justice for victims of discrimination and ensure that every neighborhood receives what it needs to thrive at a time when most Americans feel strongly that civil rights laws are critically important for our society”, said Shanna Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “The AFFH rule, which is now being finalized by HUD, will help jurisdictions that willingly accept federal funds comply with their long-standing obligation to promote strong neighborhoods, and work to reverse entrenched patterns of residential segregation and the structural inequalities that they produce.”
“Local nonprofit fair housing centers investigate over 2/3 of all reported housing discrimination complaints and rely on federal dollars to root out and stop illegal practices. These groups help tens of thousands of people every year when they face barriers to fair housing. More than 3 million acts of housing discrimination occur each year, but the vast majority are never reported. Congress must support robust enforcement of the Fair Housing Act by expanding the resources available to local nonprofit fair housing groups that do the majority of the work to fight hidden discrimination and promote local policies to overcome the ugly legacy of segregation and concentrated poverty.”
HUD’s Disparate Impact rule, based on 45 years of legal precedent and upheld by 11 federal Circuit courts, was promulgated by HUD in response to calls from both the housing industry and civil rights groups for more clear guidelines on how to apply the legal standard. The disparate impact doctrine simply states that housing providers must use policies and practices that do not unnecessarily discrimination against people if there are other, less discriminatory, alternatives that achieve the same business goals. The rule provides helpful guidance for how to promote diverse, inclusive communities and help victims of domestic violence, families with children, people with disabilities and others access equal housing opportunities. This rule provides a consistent framework for challenging policies and practices that seem neutral on their face but have an unfair and unjustifiable discriminatory impact on groups protected by the Fair Housing Act. Moreover, in recent years, the disparate impact standard has been used by the DOJ and other private parties in a bevy of fair lending cases to provide relief to approximately 300,000 victims of lending discrimination.
Smith added, “The anti-fair housing language in H.R. 2577 represents a cowardly attack on fair housing. This House has attempted to hide behind the thin veil of protecting ‘state and local rights’ and promoting a strong housing market, when in fact, their intent is to undo HUD’s efforts to ensure that every neighborhood has what it needs to succeed and make it easier for big banks and landlords to discriminate against families. Members of Congress who voted against the anti-fair housing language included in the bill voted to uphold justice and fairness; their colleagues who supported these despicable provisions voted to shield and protect those who want to violate the law. Our elected officials who voted in favor of these harmful provisions should be ashamed of themselves.”
“We strongly condemn these appalling attacks on fair housing. For more than 45 years, the Fair Housing Act has safeguarded the right of every American against housing discrimination. By blocking HUD from using its enforcement tools and slashing funding for local community-based programs, the House threatens to undo the tremendous strides we have made as a nation toward achieving opportunity for all.”
“We urge the Senate and President Obama to stand united against these destructive anti-fair housing attacks and protect the right of every American to housing free from discrimination.”
The National Fair Housing Alliance (www.nationalfairhousing.org)
Founded in 1988, the National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the National Fair Housing Alliance, through comprehensive education, advocacy and enforcement programs, provides equal access to apartments, houses, mortgage loans and insurance policies for all residents in the nation.