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PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCES $11.5 MILLION IN GRANTS TO HELP GROUPS IN 42 CITIES CRACK DOWN ON HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
WASHINGTON – President Clinton today announced $11.5 million in grants to groups in 42 cities to help them carry out his crackdown on all types of housing discrimination, including a new focus on reducing discrimination against recent immigrants, who are predominantly minorities.
"Members of every family in America want to be able to live in any neighborhood and in any home they can afford, free from discrimination," President Clinton said. "The Fair Housing Act gives families this legal right, and we are determined to enforce it as part of our initiative to create One America of equal opportunity."
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said that in addition to continuing efforts to wipe out housing discrimination against minorities and others born in the United States, many of the HUD grants are targeted to groups that have not traditionally sought assistance in fighting housing discrimination, particularly new immigrants.
"The Statue of Liberty doesn’t have an inscription saying ‘Give me your tired, your poor, but keep them out of nice white neighborhoods,’ Cuomo said. "People who flee persecution elsewhere in search of the American Dream shouldn’t have to suffer discrimination in our country."
Cuomo said private, non-profit fair housing groups in the following states will get the $11.5 million in grants from HUD to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, educate the public and housing industry about housing discrimination laws, and work to promote fair housing.
"Housing discrimination is illegal, intolerable and un-American" Cuomo said. "The grants we’re awarding today will strengthen our partnership with local groups around the country working to put a stop to this outrageous conduct."
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis 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.
Unlike past years, today most immigrants to the United States are minorities. While 85 percent of immigrants were white Europeans in 1900, only 16 percent of immigrants were Europeans in 1996.
Studies show that minority immigrants experience worse housing conditions than European immigrants. In addition, recent immigrants are less likely to be homeowners than earlier immigrants, and non-English speaking immigrants face special difficulties in understanding their fair housing rights.
Cuomo said all types of housing discrimination are much harder to detect today than they were years ago, making it more important than ever for HUD to work in partnership with local groups to root out illegal acts of discrimination.
"Today housing discrimination is subtle, not blatant," Cuomo said. "For example, landlords usually don’t say openly that they don’t rent to blacks or Hispanics – they just say there are no vacancies when a minority shows up. Then, miraculously, several vacancies suddenly appear when a white person walks in five minutes later."
The grants, which are funded under HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program, will address sophisticated and subtle forms of discrimination through paired testing as well as other investigative tools.
During testing, people of different backgrounds – based on their race, ethnicity, family status, sex, religion or disability – pose as prospective renters or homebuyers. Testers – who state they have similar incomes, assets and credit ratings – check to see if they are treated differently from one another by landlords, people selling homes, lenders making mortgage loans, or companies selling homeowners insurance.
Just last month, a Richmond, VA, fair housing group using HUD funds for testing won a record $100 million racial discrimination judgment against Nationwide Insurance Co.
The grants announced today will also be used to investigate housing discrimination complaints, to educate members of the public about their rights, and to train housing industry groups and local governments on their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.
A total of $800,000 of the grant money, which went to five groups, was set aside to expand fair housing services to people with disabilities.
Cuomo last week announced the most comprehensive and sophisticated nationwide audit ever conducted to test for and evaluate housing discrimination in urban, suburban and rural communities around the nation. The audit will include 3,000 to 5,000 tests for housing discrimination. Testers will examine and evaluate patterns and trends in housing sales, rentals, and mortgage lending to minorities.
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. This year HUD has also obtained commitments from lenders to make over $3 billion in home mortgage loans to minorities and low-income families to settle accusations of housing discrimination.
As part of his One America Initiative, President Clinton directed Cuomo to double enforcement efforts brought against perpetrators of housing discrimination by the year 2001. HUD has already doubled its enforcement actions to a rate of 60 to 70 a month, compared with less than 30 enforcement actions per month during the Clinton Administration’s first term.
Cuomo said HUD will be able to continue moving aggressively against housing discrimination as the result of an increase in the budget of its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity from $30 million in the 1998 fiscal year to $40 million in the current fiscal year.
People who believe they’ve been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or on the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009