April 15, 2003
PRESIDENT BUSH, ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT, SECRETARY MARTINEZ COMMEMORATE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
WASHINGTON - President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez today marked the 35th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act by signing a proclamation urging all Americans to advance fair housing opportunities across the nation. Joining the leaders at the White House signing ceremony was Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Fair Housing Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, prohibits discrimination in the financing, rental or sale of any dwelling based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Amendments to the Act in 1988 extended its coverage to prohibit discrimination based on disability or familial status.
"The Bush Administration is committed to ensuring that this nation's dedication to fair housing remains as strong today as it was 35 years ago," Martinez said. "As an immigrant myself, I have a profound appreciation for this country's tradition of being compassionate and welcoming to all people. America benefits greatly from its diversity."
To raise awareness of the importance of fair housing, President Bush declared April "Fair Housing Month." During the month, HUD will hold outreach activities to educate consumers and members of the housing industry about the Fair Housing Act and its safeguards.
Although progress has been made in the 35 years of the Act, a 2002 HUD study entitled Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase I indicates that work remains to be done. That study found that while sales and rental discrimination against African Americans has declined since HUD last studied the problem in 1989, and while sales discrimination against Hispanics has also declined, rental discrimination against Hispanic Americans has remained unchanged at about 25 percent.
To combat discrimination, the Bush Administration is focusing its efforts on education and enforcement.
The Administration targets its educational efforts at consumers - those who are buying or renting a home, so they will know their rights as guaranteed by law - and industry members - real estate professionals, landlords and others, so they will treat all consumers in a lawful, respectful manner. The centerpiece of HUD's educational efforts is a year-long national print, radio and TV ad campaign, which will be launched later this month.
The government is also stepping up enforcement of the nation's fair housing laws. If illegal practices do occur, the Department of Justice, HUD and other agencies aggressively act to protect consumers.
This stepped-up enforcement is evidenced by the reduced number of backlogged cases of alleged discrimination. At the start of the Bush Administration, some 85 percent of cases were considered "aged" - or over 100 days old. At the end of fiscal-year 2002, that rate was down to 29 percent. Similarly, among cases HUD contracts with state and local agencies to investigate, the backlog in January 2001 was 69 percent, and down to 44 percent at the end of FY2002.
For FY2004, the President has proposed to increase the fair housing budget by eight percent, to nearly $50 million. Approximately $30 million will go to the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), which forges partnerships between HUD and state and local jurisdictions to support enforcement, education and outreach activities. The remaining $20 million will go to the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), which provides grants to non-profit agencies that directly target discrimination and educate the public.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, 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.
A photo will be uploaded as soon as it is available following the ceremony.
For more information about HUD's Fair Housing Month activities or to report housing discrimination, call (800) 669-9777.