HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-62
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 3:00 p.m. Thursday
Or contact your local HUD office March 23, 2000


Link to Promoting Fairness in Public Housing (PDF format)

WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today issued a policy directive designed to break down concentrations of public housing residents by race and income and increase racial, ethnic and economic integration in public housing developments where 1.3 million families live.

Under the policy, known as deconcentration, the nation's 3,200 public housing authorities will house residents with different income levels in the same buildings and apartment developments. This will prevent a concentration of the poorest families in certain buildings and developments, as well as a concentration of families with somewhat higher incomes in other buildings and developments.

Cuomo's policy directive ending public housing segregation also promotes integration by requiring public housing authorities to ensure that their admissions policies "affirmatively further fair housing to reduce racial and national origin concentrations." These efforts may include: 1) Marketing of public housing in particular neighborhoods to families from groups that don't typically live in those neighborhoods. 2) Providing more consultation and information about housing opportunities to applicants for public housing. 3) Providing more supportive services and amenities to public housing developments to make them more attractive to new residents.

Joining Cuomo at today's announcement to express support for the deconcentration policy were: Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Martin Luther King III; Congressman Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton of North Carolina, representing the Congressional Black Caucus; Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Fair Housing Task Force; Christopher Kui, Executive Director of Asian-Americans for Equality; Kevin Marchman, Executive Director of the National Organization of African Americans in Housing; and Executive Directors of housing authorities from around the country.

"Segregation is an ugly part of our past that has no place in the 21st century," Cuomo said. "If we are ever to become the One America envisioned by President Clinton and achieve Martin Luther King's dream of justice and equality, we need to come together as neighbors and not remain apart."

The One America commitment made by President Clinton and Vice President Gore says that "the federal government should lead the way in word and deed" in ensuring that families not be segregated by race or income.

Under the new deconcentration policy, which HUD will implement through a regulation, housing authorities will be required to annually classify buildings and prospective tenants by incomes. This new directive will not permit the concentration of relatively low-income families in some buildings and higher income families in other buildings. Instead, authorities will be required to fill vacancies in lower-income buildings with higher income residents and, similarly, vacancies in its higher-income buildings with lower-income applicants.

In order to achieve income deconcentration, housing authorities will be allowed to temporarily skip particular families on their waiting lists.

No families currently in a public housing unit or receiving a Section 8 rental assistance voucher will lose assistance as a result of HUD's new policy.

If a housing authority fails to reduce concentrations of particular groups or create new segregation, HUD will move to challenge the housing authority's civil rights certification under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and/or the Fair Housing Act of 1968. If a housing authority refuses to accept a voluntary compliance agreement to make needed changes, HUD can reduce aid to the authority or - under the most extreme circumstances - seek to take control of the management of the housing authority.

Also at today's press conference, Cuomo released a report called Promoting Fairness in Public Housing, which summarizes HUD's recent efforts to combat segregation in public housing.

The report cites a number of instances in which HUD found that housing authorities were segregating public housing. It also includes cases in which HUD was named as a party in lawsuits charging housing discrimination. For example:

  • In 1997, the Biloxi, Mississippi housing authority was found to have steered African American and Vietnamese applicants to just three of its nine public housing complexes and included no Vietnamese households in its Section 8 rental assistance program.
  • The Kaplan, Louisiana housing authority in 1998 was found to have maintained racially segregated complexes. The housing authority also provided lower maintenance but charged higher maintenance fees in its African American complexes. In addition, the authority permitted white residents to have pets and gardens, but denied the privilege to minority residents.
  • All 14 units of a housing complex newly-completed by the housing authority in Blakely, Georgia went to white residents. Not one of the seven vacancies that occurred later was offered to a black applicant.

In all three cases cited above, HUD has negotiated voluntary compliance agreements with the housing authorities to remedy the practices.

The new deconcentration policy issued by Cuomo today is the latest in a series of efforts HUD has undertaken to achieve racial, ethnic and economic integration in public housing.

For example, HUD is providing housing authorities with new Section 8 rental assistance vouchers to give families the opportunity to secure market-rate housing in residential neighborhoods throughout a city, rather than in the immediate environs of a public housing complex. President Clinton has requested 120,000 new Section 8 vouchers in his Fiscal Year 2001 Budget.

The Public Housing Reform Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, allowed housing authorities to admit more families of somewhat higher income than in years past.

Historically, two factors have led to income and racial segregation in public housing.

  • Many communities placed public housing developments in predominantly low-income, minority neighborhoods. These neighborhoods tended to concentrate a large share of a locality's most affordable rental housing in neighborhoods that were more dilapidated, higher in poverty, less powerful politically and, often, poorly supported by public services.
  • Compounding the problem is a practice by which some housing authorities, upon opening new public housing complexes or providing Section 8 rental assistance vouchers, target families of particular racial or socioeconomic backgrounds, while ignoring others who might benefit as much from the programs.


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