National Fair Housing Alliance

  • January 21, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Cedric Ricks, Communications Associate, and Jorge Soto, Public Policy Associate, National Fair Housing Alliance

    “All life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., December 19, 1963.

    Nearly half a century ago these powerful words typified the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Today, they are the cornerstone for a civil rights legacy that not only fights for racial justice in education, employment and housing, but for fairness for everyone facing injustice and discrimination. 

    King would be 84 if alive today.  It is important that we invoke his legacy as the nation prepares to honor his birth with a federal holiday.

    His ideals live on and are an active part of American culture - they provide a framework for measuring equality and justice in our society.  King’s assassination spurred Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, one week after his death.  The Act was created in the aftermath of riots across the country in protest against substandard living conditions in segregated African-American communities.  It was designed to end residential segregation and promote racial integration – two goals that continue today.

    The legislation also offered protections to millions of Americans who faced discrimination in housing based on their religion, skin color or national origin.  Since the Fair Housing Act’s inception, protections have been extended to address sex discrimination and the challenges people with disabilities and families with children encounter when looking for suitable housing.  We are at a crossroads - where public opinion supports addressing poverty in meaningful ways and the inevitable expansion of LGBT rights.  Ending housing discrimination for poor and LGBT people is our next step toward achieving full fair housing.

  • 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.

  • January 27, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

    In January, communities throughout the United States join together to commemorate the life and contributions of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is around Dr. King’s birthday when many schoolchildren embrace the Civil Rights Movement, recite parts of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and truly understand that they can be whatever and whomever they want to be.  

    Most of us know the tragic tale of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, but far too many people don’t know that Dr. King’s final legislative victory is one of his most enduring but largely ignored achievements.  Much of his work during the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966 was an initiative to ensure just and equal access to quality housing for African-Americans. Dr. King’s historic march in Marquette Park laid the groundwork for our nation’s fair housing laws.  One week after Dr. King’s death, Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act, a law that protects us from discrimination in housing based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. 

    The Fair Housing Act codifies the affirmative responsibility to end segregation and promote integration throughout the United States.  The National Fair Housing Alliance’s (NFHA) issue brief released this week by ACS, “The Promise of the Fair Housing Act and the Role of Fair Housing Organizations,” discusses Dr. King’s quest for fair housing and how fair housing organizations do their part to keep The Dream alive. 

    Today, the Fair Housing Act is a well-crafted tool that must continue to be sharpened in a nation that continues to grow and diversify.  Census projections indicate that in less than 30 years, our nation will be made up mostly of people of color. Yet, the nation our children grow up in today remains strikingly similar in some respects to the nation Dr. King was trying to change.  At the end of every school day, most children of all backgrounds return to segregated neighborhoods.  In neighborhoods of color, there are significantly fewer opportunities for children to reach their true potential.

  • January 26, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In a time when many are seriously discussing the nation's inequalities, such as the growing gap between the nation’s wealthy and everyone else, authors of a new ACS Issue Brief say such discussion should not overlook or ignore large swaths of our society that are being dealt a harsher blow than others.

    For example, the collapse of the housing market has taken an enormous toll on the middle class. But the National Fair Housing Alliance’s Jorge Andres Soto and Deidre Swesnik detail in their Issue Brief how African Americans and Latinos in cities throughout the nation have fared worse than others because of pervasive discrimination. The disparity is due in part, they assert, because of the “peddling of high-cost subprime, predatory loans in communities of color” They note that the Center for Responsible Lending found that among “borrowers with good credit, African Americans and Latinos received high interest loans more than three times as often as white borrowers among loans originated between 2004 and 2008.”

    Citing a 2010 report from the NFHA and the Center for Applied Policy at the University of Wisconsin, Soto and Swesnik write that more than 28,000 complaints of housing discrimination were “investigated by private non-profit fair housing organizations, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and state and local government fair housing agencies.” They add that the number represents a fraction of the “annual incidence of housing discrimination in the United State, an amount exceeding well over four million acts of housing discrimination. That amounts to at least 11,000 incidents of housing discrimination each day throughout the United States.”

    And getting out of debt, according to a recent study by Robert M. Lawless, Dov Cohen, and Jean Braucher, is also significantly harder for black families, than white families. Reporting last week on that study, The New York Times said it shows that “lawyers were disproportionately steering blacks into a process that was not as good for them financially, in part because of biases, whether conscious or unconscious.”

  • September 22, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Lisa Rice, vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. Rice will be participating in a panel discussion on jobs and economic justice this Friday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference.

    It’s disheartening, but not surprising that the Pew Research Center reports that the median wealth of American white households is 20 times that of African American households and 18 times that of Hispanic households. This historic gap in wealth continues to widen and is the result of a toxic mix of longtime segregation, high unemployment rates, falling home values and skyrocketing home foreclosures that is severely impacting communities of color. These ills are not natural occurrences, but the result of federal policies that until recently have ignored job creation and wage support in communities of color and allowed the peddling of predatory, abusive and discriminatory loan products to African American and Hispanic homebuyers to go unchecked.

    In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an overall unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, which is unchanged from July and represents 14 million Americans. But African American unemployment jumped to 16.7 percent – the highest level since 1984 – while the white jobless rate fell slightly to 8 percent. For Hispanics, unemployment remained stable at 11.3 percent in August, while Asian-American unemployment dropped to 7.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 155,000 African-Americans obtained employment in August; even so that wasn’t enough to counter a surge in unemployment numbers for the group. At least 1.4 million African Americans have been out of work for more than six months.

    Some reasons for the disparity in employment for African Americans may include: a younger work force, fewer members obtaining college degrees and a larger share of the population living in areas severely impacted by the recession. Even if those factors are taken into account a disparity persists and racial discrimination can’t be ignored, explains Algernon Austin, director of Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program for the Economic Policy Institute. Austin told CNN, “Even when you compare black and white workers, same age range, same education, you still see pretty significant gaps in unemployment rates. So I do think the fact of racial discrimination in the labor market continues to play a role.”

    For most of us employment is essential for income to sustain our most basic necessities – food, shelter and health care. That income, if sufficient and properly managed, can also be used to leverage a time honored vehicle for asset accumulation in this country: homeownership. Millions of Americans tap the equity in their homes to pay for their child’s college education, fund start-up businesses, pay for retirement, and weather economic uncertainty. For communities of color, homeownership rates have historically lagged behind that of white Americans though the long trend has been upward. African American homeownership has doubled from 22.8 percent in 1940 to 45.9 percent in 2010.  Comparatively, homeownership for whites increased from 45.6 percent in 1940 to 74.4 percent in 2010. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University about 47.5 percent of Latinos and 58.2 percent of Asian-Americans owned a home in 2010.