Forty-two years ago, in April 1968, the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) became law. In each succeeding April, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) celebrates Fair Housing Month to draw attention to the efforts it makes to enforce and promote the purposes of the FHA. As we have discussed on numerous occasions, the FHA makes it illegal to discriminate in various housing transactions for reasons based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability or familial status.
In its press release announcing this year’s Fair Housing Month, which has been declared “A Time to Act!,” HUD emphasizes that it is constantly expanding its efforts to work with both states and local communities to reinforce the requirement that those communities promote diverse, inclusive housing opportunities. Interestingly, HUD also acknowledged that it is now examining the prevalence of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, two hot button categories that do not presently enjoy protection under most federal laws. In addition to the enforcement activities that we discussed here, here, here, and here, HUD states that, in the past year, it:
- Settled a case in which it was alleged that West Chester County, New York, made false claims to the government when it made civil rights certifications required to receive funding, and in so doing, obtained an agreement from West Chester that it would build 750 units of affordable housing in parts of the county with low minority concentrations.
- Expanded its efforts to fund communities that use HUD funds to create employment opportunities for low income residents.
- Obtained $8 million plus in relief for victims of housing discrimination.
While housing providers are often the defendants or respondents in cases filed under the FHA, in my experience, our employees try to get it right for at least a couple of reasons: (1) we absolutely strive to follow the law; and (2) we are evaluated and compensated, in part, based upon how many people sign (and renew) leases to live in our communities. In short, we try hard to rent to each and every qualified applicant. We have every incentive to get people in our communities – not keep them out. Am I implying errors never happen? Of course not. Guidelines can get misapplied. Someone can make an inadvertent mistake. It is a rare case where there has been intentional discrimination by our clients because of an applicant’s or resident’s membership in a protected class.
Just A Thought.