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Yesterday I had the great honor of standing in the shadow of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the 44th anniversary of his death. We gathered at the foot of his memorial in a wreath-laying ceremony to honor his life and legacy and to give thanks to a man who devoted his life to the pursuit of freedom in all aspects of our lives, particularly housing.
“Live Free” is the theme of HUD’s celebration of Fair Housing Month this April, and it speaks to our continued pursuit as a nation to reach Dr. King’s goals. He fought for civil rights for families, pushed for labor rights for municipal workers, spoke out against war, and supported Cesar Chavez’s work with agricultural workers. But the major action interrupted and left undone at the time of his death was the crusade to end housing discrimination in America.
His campaign for fair housing had taken Dr. King across the country, including moving himself and his family into a Chicago slum during the great Chicago campaign in 1966 so that he could be closer to the need. It was the basic, yet unattained principle, that all Americans have a right to live where they chose and an expectation that their government would help them be lifted from poverty, free from segregation, and away from inequality that was Dr. King’s mission.
At HUD, we continue that mission today. The Fair Housing Act was signed on April 11, 1968, days after Dr. King’s assassination. Long sought, it was bittersweet. And it was only the beginning of our work. Some of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing’s current efforts include:
- Discrimination complaints – Each year, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) partner agencies receive approximately 10,000 complaints alleging some form of housing discrimination. Email or contact us at (800)669-9777 and for the hearing impaired, please call TTY (800)927-9275. Last year disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with Race being the second most common basis of complaints.
- Enforcement – HUD continues to investigate individual acts of housing discrimination, and to obtain appropriate relief for its victims. The Department has also increased its efforts to both create communities of opportunity in high poverty neighborhoods and to work more systematically in tackling issues of equity and access in the current housing market.
- Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing – HUD is diligently working to ensure that state and local agencies fulfill their mandate to further fair housing and help different population groups have the opportunity to live in a variety of neighborhoods and have multiple housing options.
- Limited English Proficiency Community Access – HUD has translated over 100 vital HUD documents into 18 different languages to serve persons who have limited English so they may have equal access to HUD programs, services, and activities. FHEO also has a language phone lines that provide oral language interpretations 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to help persons with limited English.
- Immigrant Community Outreach – HUD is aggressively fighting to end discrimination that limits the housing choices of immigrants and assist the integration of immigrants and newcomers into the larger society, especially in communities where their numbers are growing.
- Lending Discrimination – In 2011, HUD enforcement action led to a major settlement with Cornerstone Mortgage, a national mortgage lender based in Houston, TX, which had allegedly denied an Asian American immigrant a mortgage loan because she was on maternity leave.
- Fair Housing Initiatives Program – HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies educate the public about their fair housing rights and conduct private enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.
- Fair Housing Assistance Program – HUD’s 98 Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) partners are state and local government agencies that enforce fair housing laws that are substantially equivalent to the Fair Housing Act. HUD’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget includes $29.5 million for FHAP.
- LGBT Discrimination –Utilizing its authority to ensure that no one is denied HUD-funded or FHA-insured housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, HUD published a final rule that went into effect on March 5 called “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs.”
- Section 3 and Economic Opportunities – HUD is putting new energy behind the Section 3 Program that was created to increase job opportunities for low-income individuals and public housing residents and contracts for the businesses that hire them. HUD launched a Section 3 Business Registry pilot in 5 cities (New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Detroit). Through the registry, businesses that hire low-income individuals or are composed of low-income individuals will have better access to information about contracting opportunities from cities, housing authorities, and other government agencies. Residents are also encouraged to use the registry to identify businesses that may have HUD-funded employment opportunities.