NAACP CALLS ON CONGRESS TO INCREASE HOUSING DISCRIMINATION INVESTIGATIONS

KEY LEGISLATION WOULD ALSO EXAMINE THE CAUSES OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AND SEGREGATION AND THEIR EFFECTS ON EDUCATION, POVERTY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Where one grows up greatly determines many of life's outcomes. Congress recognized this when it passed the Fair Housing Act just one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congress gave this civil rights law a dual purpose: to eliminate housing discrimination and to promote residential integration. Congress reaffirmed its commitment to fair housing when it amended the law in 1988 to give HUD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) considerably more authority to prosecute people and businesses that violate the law.

Sadly, more than 40 years after enactment of the Fair Housing Act, housing discrimination remains rampant in America: there are still an estimated 4 million instances of housing discrimination each year. Of these 4 million, in 2008, when the public filed over 30,758 fair housing complaints, fair housing organizations, with an average staff size of just five, processed 20,173 of these complaints, almost twice as many as all government agencies combined. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice processed 2,156 complaints and state and local agencies processed 8,429 complaints. It is clear that in order for the promise and the spirit of the 1968 Fair Housing Act to become a reality more must be done.

That is why Congressman Al Green (TX) has introduced and been a primary force behind H.R. 476, the Housing Fairness Act. This important legislation increases the Fair Housing Initiatives Program authorization to $42.5 million annually ("FHIP": FHIP organizations partner with HUD to help people identify government agencies that handle complaints of housing discrimination. They also conduct preliminary investigation of claims, including sending "testers" to properties suspected of practicing housing discrimination. Testers are minorities and whites with the same financial qualifications who evaluate whether housing providers treat equally-qualified people differently); creates a new national testing program for $15 million annually; and creates a new research grant program for $5 million annually to examine the causes of housing discrimination and segregation and their effects on education, poverty and economic development, including research on the extent of housing discrimination against veterans and military personnel, the causes of such discrimination, and its effects.

On July 28, 2010, the House Financial Services Committee approved of H.R. 476; this legislation is likely to be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives in September.

THE NAACP STRONGLY SUPPORTS H.R. 476, THE HOUSING FAIRNESS ACT, AND URGES IT IMMEDIATE ENACTMENT.

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