Fair Housing in a Changing Nation

  • June 7, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Cedric Ricks, Communications Associate, National Fair Housing Alliance

    No one profits when potential homebuyers or renters are turned away, not because of their ability to pay, but because of their race, national origin, skin color, sex, religion, familial status or because of a disability.

    Housing discrimination is a sad reality that runs counter to the American ideal of fairness but affects nearly four million people annually. Unfortunately, meager funding allows only a fraction of those complaints to be investigated and rectified.  The nation’s private non-profit fair housing organizations investigated 65 percent of the 27,092 housing discrimination complaints filed across the nation in 2011, according to a recent report from the National Fair Housing Alliance. On a shoestring budget, these organizations are the first line of defense against illegal housing discrimination. The report, Fair Housing in a Changing Nation, 2012 Fair Housing Trends Report, discusses emerging fair housing trends affecting our country, which grows increasingly diverse and is expected to include a population with people of color in the majority by 2042.  According to the U.S. Census, people with disabilities already account for about 19 percent or 54 million people in the United States. That number is expected to grow over time. 

    While the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex and disability, Fair Housing in a Changing Nation reports that 44 percent of all housing discrimination complaints investigated by private groups in 2011 involved discrimination against people with disabilities. The report indicates that discrimination involving race accounted for about 19 percent of those complaints while familial status accounted for 13 percent and national origin and sex each accounted for over 5 percent of those complaints. It is important to note that disability complaints are high because many apartment owners make direct comments refusing to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for people with disabilities so it is easier to detect the discrimination.  Discrimination based on race, national origin and other protected classes is harder to detect but continues to be a pervasive problem that affects our nation's communities. Private fair housing organizations also reported more than 10 percent of their complaints involved discrimination against people not currently protected under the federal Fair Housing Act. For example, LGBT protections are not part of the federal law, but there are at least 20 states, the District of Columbia and more than 200 localities with laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.