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HUD No. 98-578
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Wednesday
Or contact your local HUD officeOctober 28, 1998

HUD Honored With VP's Plain English Award

WASHINGTON - Two Department of Housing and Urban Development employees were honored today by Vice President Al Gore for translating a complex housing discrimination regulation into a new language - English.

"There are few things more damaging than housing discrimination because when you deny people a home, you deny them the school they want, the neighborhood they want, and often the job they need," Vice President Gore said. "But, before today, if you looked at what it took to file a complaint, you found a 600-word form that raised more questions than it answered."

"Rule Number One: the purpose of communication is to communicate," HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said. "At HUD we're embracing a radical new concept - giving the American people information they can actually understand. HUDspeak is out and English is in. We want to end the use of bureaucratic, legalistic language filled with initials and numbers that sounds like some kind of secret code or a language from a lost civilization."

"This reform has a serious purpose," Cuomo said. "We can't do a good job serving the American people if they can't understand us. By rewriting this regulation in plain language, we are making it easier for victims of housing discrimination to file complaints with HUD and get justice. By rewriting other regulations, we will make it easier for people to deal with us in other areas as well."

The Vice President gave two HUD employees his monthly "Plain Language" award today for rewriting a regulation to make it easier for average Americans to file housing discrimination complaints. Harry Carey, Assistant General Counsel for Fair Housing Enforcement, and Sara Pratt, Director of the Office of Fair Housing Enforcement, received the awards.

Here is an excerpt of the HUD regulation before it was rewritten:

Sec. 103.40 Date of filing of complaint

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, a complaint is filed when it is received by HUD, or dual filed with HUD through a substantially equivalent State or local agency, in a form that reasonably meets the standards of Sec. 103.30.

(b) The Assistant Secretary may determine that a complaint is filed for the purposes of the one-year period for the filing of complaints, upon the submission of written information (including information provided by telephone and reduced to writing by an employee of HUD) identifying the parties and describing generally the alleged discriminatory housing practice.

(c) Where a complaint alleges a discriminatory housing practice that is continuing, as manifested in a number of incidents of such conduct, the complaint will be timely if filed within one year of the last alleged occurrence of that practice.

Here is the new English translation:

Is there a time limit on when I can file?

Yes. You must notify us within one year that you are a victim of discrimination. If you indicate there is more than one act of discrimination, or that it is continuing, we must receive your information within one year of the last incident.

As part of its work to revitalize communities, create jobs, produce affordable housing, and expand homeownership, HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws housing discrimination. Since 1993, HUD has received nearly 44,000 fair housing complaints and has helped obtain over $150 million in settlements and court judgments in housing discrimination cases.

In another move to make it easier for people to file housing discrimination complaints, HUD earlier created a housing discrimination complaint line at 1-800-669-9777 and a Web site to file complaints.

Today's "No Gobbledygook Award" builds on President Clinton's June 1 Executive Memorandum to all executive departments and agencies. The Executive Memorandum requires departments and agencies to:

  • Write any new document that tells the public how to get a benefit or comply with a requirement in plain language by October 1, 1998.

  • Write all new government regulations in plain language by January 1, 1999.

  • Revise all existing letters and notices into plain language by 2002

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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