I have written in this space before that HUD continues to spend our federal tax dollars to investigate and test for housing discrimination. HUD does this, in part, by giving money to various entities across the country with the mission of partnering with the federal government to investigate and probe housing providers to ensure compliance with our Fair Housing Act (FHA) and similar state laws.
Indeed, just last week, HUD announced that it awarded $38 million to over 100 fair housing organizations and other non-profit agencies in 43 states (and Washington, DC) to “address housing discrimination.” These grants are funded through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) which was created to help enforce the FHA by the use of hiring fair housing testers and funding investigations designed to catch discriminatory housing practices. The grants are also intended to provide money for education and training for housing providers, local governments, and victims of housing discrimination. $29 million of the money was designated to assist local non-profit fair housing groups to carry out testing and various enforcement activities. Another $5.5 million went to groups to educate the public and housing providers about fair housing rights/responsibilities. The final $3.6 million was awarded to groups primarily engaged to focus on the rights and needs of underserved groups, such as rural and immigrant populations.
HUD’s view remains that it lacks the necessary manpower to fight housing discrimination on its own and that fair housing partner agencies partners are vital to their efforts to combat unlawful discrimination. That is all well and good, but my concern has long been that testers are – by their very nature – not telling the truth when they pretend to show interest in an apartment at one of my communities. And that troubles me. Am I implying that each and every tester is unethical? I am not. Does that mean I believe no discrimination complaint has merit? Of course not. Management company employees certainly make mistakes from time to time. And then we work to get it right. I am just looking for a level playing field and would like to work with HUD (and its partner agencies) to develop a methodology that is both proactive and does not promote unneccessary complaints. Increased training and fair housing education come to mind. Indeed, as most cases in 2014 concern allegations that management failed to appropriately engage in the interactive process related to a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification request from a resident with a disability, this is likely an area where HUD, professional aparment management, and fair housing community groups could all find some common ground.
Just A Thought.