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CLINTON ADMINISTRATION CRACKS DOWN ON HOUSING DISCRIMINATION WITH NEW CHARGES AND $15 MILLION IN GRANTSWASHINGTON -- Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo today launched a crackdown on housing discrimination at the direction of President Clinton. Cuomo announced civil charges in three cases -- including one in which a code allegedly referring to TV bigot Archie Bunker was used to bar minorities from apartments -- and awarded $15 million in grants to fair housing groups.
"Archie Bunker was played for laughs, but housing discrimination is no laughing matter," Cuomo said. "Every family in America has the right to live anywhere they can afford."
During President Clinton's first term, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reached out-of-court settlements on 6,517 housing discrimination cases. The Department took enforcement actions on 1,085 cases, in which HUD issued housing discrimination charges or referred cases to the Department of Justice. HUD obtained $17.8 million in compensation for housing discrimination victims during the President's first term.
"At President Clinton's direction, I'm pledging HUD's full resources to intensify the fight against illegal housing discrimination," Cuomo said. "We will double the number of enforcement actions against this outrageous conduct in the President's second term."
Cuomo said the crackdown will further the President's goal of boosting the minority homeownership rate, by removing barriers of prejudice that act as a roadblock to minority homeownership.
As part of the crackdown, Cuomo released a list of 67 private, non-profit groups that will get $15 million in grants from HUD to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, provide housing counseling, and work to promote fair housing.
The three discrimination cases Cuomo announced today are from:
"Many victims of housing discrimination don't realize they've been discriminated against, and many people are unfamiliar with the Fair Housing Act," Cuomo said. "We want to alert people that HUD, fair housing groups and state and local agencies will work to make sure their legal right to be free from discrimination is enforced."
People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD. HUD operates a toll-free national hotline to take complaints, in both English and Spanish, at 1-800-669-9777.
The initiatives Cuomo announced were endorsed by Charles Kamasaki, Senior Vice President of the National Council of La Raza. "We need a strong, vigorous and consistent fair housing enforcement effort to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to housing of their choice," Kamasaki said. "The initiatives being announced today are essential steps to assuring such an enforcement effort."
Cuomo was joined at a news conference by Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO and a member of the President's Advisory Board on Race. Victims of housing discrimination also spoke at the news conference.
In the three cases spotlighted today, Cuomo announced the filing of civil charges of housing discrimination against four individuals and one business, accusing them of violating the Fair Housing Act.
A finding by an administrative law judge that the law has been violated carries a top penalty of: $11,000 in civil penalties for a first offense and $55,000 for later offenses; monetary compensation to victims for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, and loss of their fair housing rights; and attorney fees and court costs. A finding by a federal court of a violation may include an assessment of punitive damages, as well as compensation for victims.
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin.
The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.
If an investigation shows that illegal housing practices have occurred and the parties will not settle, the Department issues charges like those announced today, and legal action is taken. Many cases are settled out of court.
Since becoming HUD Secretary in February, Cuomo has made Fair Housing Act enforcement a priority. HUD reached an agreement with the National Urban League to fight housing discrimination and promote minority homeownership, and is working with the Department of Agriculture to promote fair housing in rural areas.
The civil charges announced today are against: