The Opportunity Agenda Applauds HUD’s New Fair Housing Rule
By Mel Fabrikant Monday, February 11, 2013, 12:56 PM EST
On February 8th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new regulations to better enforce and apply the Fair Housing Act across our nation. The regulations affirm, in particular, that policies and practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect, known as “disparate impact,” violate the Act. HUD is the principal federal agency charged with enforcing and interpreting the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.
Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, made the following statement today in response to the new regulations:
“The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to see the final rule on disparate impact issued today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This rule is an important step forward for equal opportunity. It makes clear that we must topple unnecessary obstacles to fair housing and ensure that what you look like, what accent you have, or whether you have children is no barrier to where you may call home.
“These regulations are another important step toward fulfillment of the Compact for Home Opportunity, a package of policy proposals by housing experts designed to stop needless foreclosures, restore devastated communities, protect fair housing and lending, and ensure that homeownership remains a pillar of the American Dream. In the coming weeks, we hope that the Administration takes additional steps recommended in the Compact, including appointing a new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency committed to affordable housing and home ownership.
“This rule, like the Fair Housing Act itself, is about all kids having a chance to live in a neighborhood with good schools and resources to thrive. It’s about all families—whatever they look like and wherever they come from—having an equal opportunity to seek a home and fair treatment in any neighborhood. And it’s about fostering the diverse and thriving communities that are part of America’s strength in an interconnected country and world.
“Since it’s adoption 45 years ago, the Fair Housing Act has prohibited all policies that unnecessarily exclude or segregate Americans based on race or other aspects of who we are. But HUD—the main agency charged with enforcing the Act—has never formalized that principle in a regulation, or set out precisely how it should be applied. These regulations provide important guidance to cities and towns, landlords and home seekers, and state and federal courts seeking to uphold fair housing throughout our country.
“Equal opportunity is a bedrock American principle, and critical to our national success. But despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, significant obstacles to equal opportunity still exist, particularly when it comes to housing and homeownership. There are still some real estate agents, landlords, and others who practice intentional discrimination against people of color, families with children, people with disabilities, and others. But more often these days, local governments and real estate corporations engage in unjustified and unnecessary policies with the practical effect of discriminating against many well-qualified home seekers. Some cities and towns, for example, prohibit the building of smaller homes or apartments that working people could afford, which in many places excludes most people of color. That means that many people are unfairly and unnecessarily cut off from opportunities like quality schools, jobs, and business possibilities. That’s bad for all of us, and we applaud the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Administration, for upholding protection against that harm.”