Welcome to the second edition of a new blog series, A Day in the Life, which will introduce you to HUD employees and highlight the important work they do.
So you think you’ve been discriminated against, now what?
Ask someone in HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) how they help fight housing discrimination. FHEO is responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act, the landmark law that prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on a person’s race/color, national origin, religion, gender, family status, and disability. One of the many functions of HUD’s fair housing staff is to investigate complaints filed with HUD.
Today, we meet Anita Petty, an Equal Opportunity Specialist here at HUD who is tasked with investigating and resolving allegations of housing discrimination.
I asked Ms. Petty a few questions about her job.
What’s the overarching task of your position?
There are really two: Investigating alleged violations of someone’s civil rights whether on an individual or institutional level. Secondly, my colleagues and I monitor compliance with civil rights statutes. These two provide the foundation for our work.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
For me, it’s the thrill of the investigative process. As an investigator, we initially get a story from a number of different perspectives. We’re neutral fact finders and the gathering of evidence and doing the analysis creates a picture. It’s like having a jigsaw puzzle and working really hard to put it all pieces together. There’s a sense of accomplishment once all of the pieces of that puzzle come together.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
In my opinion, it’s dealing with the perception of fair housing as an afterthought. The Fair Housing Act was originally enacted in 1968. It’s been more than four decades, yet discrimination still exists. We strive to help housing providers and organizations to recognize that fair housing/civil rights should be at the forefront of everything they do, because at the end of the day, what we do is about helping people.
Can you tell me a story about a difference in someone’s life that your work contributed to?
There is one woman who sticks out in my mind. She is a subsidized housing participant who has a disability. She requested a reasonable accommodation, an exception to a policy, which was denied by the housing provider, and she was forced into homelessness as a direct result of her landlord denying her reasonable request. While I’m not at liberty to share specific details of her case at the moment, I can say that when she received the letter detailing the results of my investigation, she did not hesitate to express her appreciation for the work I did on her case. Because of the complexity of her complaint, it’s been a long road for her and she had run into a number of obstacles in seeking relief from the discrimination she experienced. While the case was complicated and took some time to put all of the pieces together correctly, it’s rewarding to know that HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is helping to correct this injustice.
What’s your background?
I came to HUD after serving more than 23 years in the Marine Corp. I also worked in a homeless shelter for single mothers for a brief time and had the amazing experience of serving as a White House Intern during the President’s inaugural year. I’ve been working in the fair housing world for the last three years after doing a rotation while in the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next month for a new edition of A Day in the Life!
Shantae Goodloe is a Public Affairs Officer in HUD’s Office of Public Affairs.