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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 97-261
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-1420Monday
Or contact your local HUD officeNovember 10, 1997


WASHINGTON -- As part of his crackdown on hate crimes, President Clinton today announced a five-part "Make `Em Pay" initiative to fight housing-related acts of hate violence and intimidation with sharply higher fines and increased enforcement.

"The Fair Housing Act says every family in this nation has the right to live in any neighborhood and in any home they can afford," the President said. "Our message to those who violate this law is simple: If you try to take this right away, we will make you pay -- with higher fines and stepped-up enforcement."

"Housing discrimination and hate violence are ugly parts of American history that have no place in our present or future," said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, whose Department will spearhead the Make `Em Pay initiative in partnership with the Department of Justice. "At the President's direction, HUD is setting far tougher financial penalties to deter people from committing hate crimes and serious housing discrimination -- as well as to punish the worst offenders. This initiative makes clear that hate violence and housing discrimination do not pay."

The five-part Make `Em Pay initiative is one of a series of actions the President announced at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes today. The initiative intensifies the crackdown on illegal housing discrimination ordered by the President on Sept. 30.

Make `Em Pay calls for:

  • INCREASING PENALTIES FOR HATE ACTS INVOLVING HOUSING DISCRIMINATION: Currently, HUD guidelines assess a single fine of up to $11,000 against a first-time offender in a housing discrimination case, no matter how many discriminatory acts the person takes against an individual or family. If someone is found liable for housing discrimination, future offenses also carry greater fines -- $27,500 for second-time offenders and $55,000 for third-time offenders. HUD's new rule would assess separate fines for each act of discrimination committed. Under these new guidelines, a first-time offender who commits multiple acts of proven discrimination would face a fine of up to $11,000 for each individual act. For example three incidents would mean a fine of $33,000. In contrast, under the existing guidelines this person would face a top fine of $11,000. Offenders previously found liable would face fines of up to $27,500 for each act, and offenders found liable three times for discrimination would face fines of up to $55,000 for each new act under the new guidelines. These will go into effect after a period of public comment and review by Congress.

  • A CLOSER PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN HUD AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: The Department of Justice will strengthen an existing agreement with HUD to assist in the crackdown against hate acts involving housing discrimination. HUD will promptly refer appropriate cases to Justice for criminal prosecution. The Justice Department will notify HUD immediately if it decides a housing discrimination case does not warrant criminal prosecution, so that HUD can act quickly to file civil charges under the Fair Housing Act. Justice will also: promptly report to HUD incidents of housing-related hate violence or intimidation reported to the FBI and other Justice agencies; and train HUD investigators to handle cases of housing-related violence and intimidation.

  • A CLOSER PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN HUD AND OTHER GROUPS: HUD will create a national partnership with civil rights, advocacy and fair housing enforcement agencies at the local and state government level to identify and track housing discrimination cases. Fair housing groups funded by HUD will be required to report housing-related hate activities directly to HUD for fast processing, rather than handling such cases only at the local or state level.

  • BETTER TRAINING FOR THOSE FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION: HUD will develop and implement Make `Em Pay training programs for fair housing groups, state and local investigators, and HUD staff on the pursuit, investigation and prosecution of housing-related hate activity.

  • USING TECHNOLOGY TO FIGHT DISCRIMINATION: Within 60 days, HUD will create a new interactive site on its existing Internet Web Page -- http:/www.hud.gov -- to enable groups and individuals to report housing discrimination directly to the Department. The Web site will also carry more information about housing discrimination. HUD will also use news databases to learn about housing hate acts and to help victims file complaints if they desire. HUD will more heavily publicize its existing housing discrimination hotline -- 1-800-669-9777 -- which takes housing discrimination complaints in both English and Spanish.

A new HUD internal task force will monitor progress of the Make `Em Pay investigations, civil prosecutions and outreach efforts and compile monthly progress reports.

Housing discrimination is an important element of hate crimes. Of 8,759 hate crimes reported nationally to the FBI in 1996, 2,416 -- 27.5 percent -- were covered by the Fair Housing Act. While reported hate crimes overall rose 10 percent from 1995, those involving housing discrimination rose by more than 20 percent during the period. The actual number of hate crimes is believed to be higher, because many go unreported.

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 there is reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices have occurred and a settlement cannot be reached, HUD issues charges and legal action is taken. If someone is found to have violated the Fair Housing Act, he or she can be fined, and the victims can receive monetary compensation for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, loss of their fair housing rights, and attorney fees and court costs. A finding by a federal court of a violation may also include an assessment of punitive damages.

Cuomo was joined at a news conference announcing the Make `Em Pay initiative by William Craig Smith and his wife, Gloria -- an African American couple who filed a fair housing complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission in March. HUD later became involved in investigating the case and filed civil charges in October on the Smiths' behalf to recover damages from the neighboring John Hobbs family in Belle, WV and to obtain civil fines from the Hobbs' family.

The Smiths said members of the Hobbs family barricaded the path leading to the Smith's land; threatened the black family with a gun; threatened the Smiths with a knife; and intimidated the Smiths by hanging black plastic ducks from a cross.

HUD's civil charges accuse Hobbs, his wife, son and daughter-in-law of taking a series of actions violating the Fair Housing Act against the Smiths and their three children. Under current guidelines, the Hobbs family members can be fined a maximum of $11,000 by an administrative law judge. Under the new guidelines, they could be find $11,000 for each incident of proven housing discrimination.

During President Clinton's first term, HUD 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.

Example of a Hate Act

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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