WASHINGTON - Eighty-five private non-profit fair housing organizations, many operating on shoestring budgets, have investigated almost twice as many fair housing complaints as all relevant government agencies combined, according to a new report by the National Fair Housing Alliance.
“The Big Picture: How Fair Housing Organizations Challenge Systemic and Institutionalized Discrimination,” NFHA’s 2011 Fair Housing Trends Report, notes that while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have taken some significant steps over the past year to address discrimination in the housing market, a backlog of fair housing complaints continues to exist at the federal, state and local levels. Annual data on fair housing complaints show that private organizations investigated 18,665 complaints while federal, state, and local agencies combined processed 10,186.
The report credits HUD with improving its staffing and training practices and DOJ with taking on larger fair housing cases. But it is the private non-profit organizations, many of which are barely staying afloat, that are stepping up, by promoting integration, holding localities accountable, vindicating the rights of victims of housing discrimination, and working to eliminate the racial wealth gap.
“Census 2010 data show that our country remains highly segregated,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA President and CEO. “As the nation continues to reel from the foreclosure and economic crises, private non-profit fair housing organizations are taking stock of their communities. They are evaluating what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to happen next. We call on HUD and DOJ to step up their enforcement work and policy initiatives to do the same.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status in rental housing, real estate sales, lending, insurance, and any financial or other services related to housing.