More than 41 million foreign-born persons now call America home. I am one of them.
Some come for the opportunity to exercise religious freedom. Others come as refugees fleeing persecution from abroad. Still others are drawn by the promise of a quality education and the chance to obtain economic security.
And while adjusting to a new country can be fraught with unexpected challenges, obtaining housing should not be one of them. Unfortunately, there are times when immigrant families, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, face discrimination when trying to find a place to call home.
Just last month, HUD charged the owner and manager of a property in Champlin, Minnesota, with discrimination for refusing to rent a home to an Asian family of Hmong descent.
HUD’s charge alleged that the owner of the rental home and his company, Renter’s Avenue, refused to rent to the family, which consists of a mother, her adult son and two minor children.
The family thought everything was OK. They had no problem making an appointment to view the home and the owner accepted their $80 application fee. But instead of being allowed to move in, the family’s application triggered an exchange of emails with the owner that went on for 10 days, centering on the family’s national origin and inability to speak English.
After the family finally met all of the requirements for renting the home, the owner told them that they would have to pay $500 to have the lease translated into Hmong, then denied their application, stating: “I regret that the rental application has been denied. Both adults would have to sign the contract. [Your mother] appears to have limited English skills . . . [T]he contract must be translated to her native language. If not, she could easily break the lease. Such translations are very costly.”
When the woman’s son pointed out that the owner’s reason for denying their application constituted unlawful discrimination, the owner retaliated by threatening to report the son, who holds a real estate license, to the Minnesota department that governs real-estate licensing.
This case and others like it demonstrate why the fair housing enforcement work being done by HUD and our partner fair housing agencies is so important. Together we are helping to foster greater housing options for individuals and families that call America home.
Unlawful discrimination has no place in a nation founded on the principles of justice and equality.
As the country celebrates Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I encourage everyone who believes in fairness and equal opportunity to join my office in working to create a nation where everyone has the same access to the housing of their choice, regardless of where they come from or the language they speak.
Gustavo Velasquez is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity