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HUD No. 02-044
(202) 708-0685
For Release
April 24, 2002

HUD Finds Americans Support Nation's Fair Housing Laws, But New Survey Finds Lack of Understanding

WASHINGTON - According to Public Awareness of the Nation's Fair Housing Laws, a report prepared by the Urban Institute and released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, most Americans support the concept behind the Fair Housing Act, the law that prohibits many types of housing discrimination, but many do not fully grasp which activities are legal and which are not.

For example, only 38 percent of survey respondents were aware that it is illegal to refuse to rent to a family because they have children. Conversely, 81 percent thought it was illegal to restrict the sale of a home to white buyers, and 78 percent thought it was illegal to refuse to rent to a person with a different religion.

Crystal Hill, a 20-year old single mother from Belleville, IL, was discriminated against when a landlord refused to rent a one-bedroom apartment for her and her five-month-old son. Unlike many Americans, Hill knew the details of the federal fair housing law, and with the help of a local housing council, recently won a $50,000 settlement from the landlord.

"The Hill case illustrates the need for equal access to rental housing and homeownership," said HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. "Housing discrimination is not only illegal; it contradicts in every way the principles of freedom and opportunity we treasure as Americans."

Like Hill, 14 percent of the 1001 survey respondents believe that they have been subjected to housing discrimination. According to the study, Blacks and Hispanics were considerably more likely to hold this belief. However, in absolute terms, a far greater number of whites believed they have been discriminated against. A second indication of public attitude regarding fair housing was noted when 67 percent of respondents said that they support existing laws that prohibit homeowners from refusing to sell based on a buyer's race, religion, or nationality.

There were some modest differences across income, education, age and region of the country. For example: the extent of knowledge of fair housing laws increases with higher education and income; people between the ages of 35 and 44 are more likely to have a high level of knowledge compared to those older or younger; and people in the Northeast are somewhat more likely to have a high level of knowledge of fair housing laws than those residing in other parts of the country, especially the Midwest.

The report is based upon the results of a telephone survey by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center of 1001 men and women in the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia.

As HUD celebrates Fair Housing Month, it undertook this national survey as part of its commitment to assess the level of public awareness of fair housing laws and to establish a baseline for future performance measurement purposes.

The Fair Housing Act, which initially became law in 1968 and was strengthened in 1988, bars discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability in the sale and rental of housing and other real estate transactions.

HUD is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Fair Housing Act and promotes fair housing through various programs and initiatives, primarily through grants and funding to state and local governments and other non-profit organizations. If you believe that you have been discriminated against, call HUD's Housing Discrimination Hotline at 1-800-669-9777 or visit HUD's fair housing website.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing minority homeownership, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov.



Read a summary of the survey, below, or view the full report on HUD's website. (linked to http://www.huduser.org/publications/fairhsg/hmwk.html)

Summary of Survey Results

Percent of Respondents Surveyed
Believed Activity to be Illegal
Disagree with Conduct
Refusing to rent to a family because they had children
Searching for a home in white-only areas
Opposing construction of a wheelchair ramp
Refusing to rent to persons with mental disabilities
Advertising "Christians preferred"
Charging higher down payment due to ethnicity
Refusing to rent to person with a different religion
Restricting home sale to white buyers


Believed Activity to be Legal
Approved of Conduct
Refusing to rent to a person with poor housekeeping habits
Denying a mortgage based on insufficient income and assets


Content Archived: April 9, 2010

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