WASHINGTON – April 2, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today kicked off Fair Housing Month 2015 with the launch of a new national media campaign that will help the public recognize various forms of housing discrimination and what they should do if they believe their housing rights have been violated.
“Every American deserves a fair chance to secure safe and stable housing,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “At the core of everything we do to improve housing opportunities is a firm belief that no family should ever be denied the opportunity to own or rent a home because of what they look like, where they come from, how they get around, how they speak, who they love and other circumstances of life. HUD’s fair housing efforts level the playing field so that folks have a solid foundation upon which they can achieve their dreams and build for the future.”
The new campaign, which consists of print and digital Public Service Announcements, is being launched as the nation celebrates the 47th anniversary of the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, thelandmark law that was passed one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Each April, HUD, local communities, fair housing advocates, and fair housing organizations across the country commemorate Fair Housing Month by hosting an array of activities that enhance Americans’ awareness of their fair housing rights, highlight HUD’s fair housing enforcement efforts, and emphasize the importance of ending housing discrimination.
Secretary Castro launched the month-long commemoration with an event at HUD Headquarters that featured Vanita Gupta, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and a national leader in the civil rights community.
Through an array of enforcement activities, fair housing policy initiatives, and education and outreach efforts, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is taking action against individuals and housing providers that discriminate.
Last year, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program partner agencies received 8,468 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Act’s seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status, and disability. During that period, the categories with the highest number of complaints were disability and race, respectively. In particular, HUD has had success in combatting lending discrimination as well as various forms of discrimination faced by women and persons with disabilities.
“Forty-seven years after the Fair Housing Act became law, the work we are doing to address housing discrimination is just as important, just as relevant,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Every day, we have the law on our side to create better and stronger communities where everyone has an equal chance to obtain the home of their choosing.”
In addition to increasing awareness, the new campaign is designed to further HUD’s fair housing enforcement efforts. The campaign isbeing conducted in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and includes print and digital PSAs in various languages, webinars, training presentations, brochures, online videos and social media outreach.
“The national media campaign has several components that will be released throughout 2015, including outreach through social media and online efforts. It’s very important that we continuously teach housing consumers about their rights through a variety of media channels so they will be better prepared to both recognize discrimination when it occurs and know where to go for help,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, HUD’s partner in the creation of the campaign. “Discrimination in housing-related transactions can be very subtle, so it’s important for home seekers to be on the alert.”
The new campaign specifically focuses on the value of diverse communities in English and Spanish, the hurdles families can sometimes face when attempting to buy a home in English and Spanish, and thetypes of discrimination veterans often encounter. To view all the new announcements please visitNational Fair Housing Alliance.
In the past year HUD cases have included:
Race/National Origin Discrimination
A groundbreaking settlement with Illinois-based Midland States Bancorp, resolving allegations that the bank avoided doing business in predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods in St. Louis, Missouri, and northern Illinois, a practice known as “redlining.” The settlement requires Midland States Bancorp to originate $8 million in mortgage loans in majority minority neighborhoods and open full-service branches in Illinois and St. Louis.
Maternity Lending Discrimination
Under a settlement HUD reached with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage last October, the bank agreed to pay $5 million to resolve allegations that the lender discriminated against women who were pregnant, or had recently given birth, and were on maternity leave. Since 2010, 113 maternity leave discrimination complaints have been filed with HUD, resulting in more than 53 settlements for a total of nearly $6.6 million in compensation for victims.
Last November, HUD reached a $104,000 settlement agreement with Mt. Laurel, NJ-based Freedom Mortgage Corporation, resolving allegations that it discriminated against loan applicants with disabilities by requiring them to provide medical or other documentation regarding their disability. Theowner and operator of a 500-unit HUD-subsidized apartment complex in DeKalb, Illinois, agreed to pay $255,000 to settle allegations that they failed to meet the needs of residents with disabilities and retaliated against a resident for requesting a reasonable accommodation.
Discrimination Against Domestic Violence Survivors
In a case the Department charged in Maryland, HUD’s investigation found that the woman was served with an eviction notice because the police were called after she and her son were violently stabbed by her then boyfriend. In February, the Department reached an agreement with the City of Berlin, NH, after filing a complaint against it alleging a Fair Housing Act violation. Berlin had enacted an ordinance requiring landlords to evict tenants cited three or more times for “disorderly action,” which included domestic violence incidents. As a result of the settlement, the city amended its ordinance to make it clear that the ordinance is not to be used against victims of reported incidents of domestic violence.
National Origin Discrimination
HUD worked with the state of Nebraska to turn findings of non-compliance into a settlement that improves access to public benefits for persons with limited English proficiency, including a Language Assistance Plan.
Discrimination Against Families with Children
Napa Valley apartment owners paid two former tenants a total of $7,000, eliminated the rule that limited pool usage by children during the day, and provided its employees with fair housing training. In a similar case, HUD reached an agreement with the owners and managers of a Denver-area apartment complex, requiring the owners to construct a $10,000 accessible playground on the property. And in Hartford, CT, HUD and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, reached a $24,000 settlement with a real estate company settling allegations that it published discriminatory listings and advertisements for condominiums specifying that children were not permitted.