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Quint-Regional FHIP/FHAP Training Conference

Remarks as prepared for delivery by Secretary Mel Martinez

Atlanta, Georgia
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Thank you, Assistant Secretary Peoples, for that generous introduction.

I want to congratulate the fair housing award recipients on the great work they are doing to promote fair housing in their communities. The recipients represent 5 different regions. This shows that our efforts to advance equal opportunity are reaching every corner of this nation.

I also want to recognize Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of The Advertising Council. HUD has formed an exciting, world-class partnership with Peggy and her team, which I will tell you about in a moment.

On April 2nd, we kicked off Fair Housing Month with an event at HUD featuring Lynda Robb Johnson. As you know, her father - President Lyndon Johnson - signed the Fair Housing Act into law 35 years ago this month.

The Act defined for the first time a national commitment to eliminating housing discrimination. The passage of the Act came soon after a tragic moment in our nation's history - the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

During his remarkable life, Dr. King made housing discrimination a centerpiece of his fight for fairness and equality. Congress tried to pass a fair housing bill for two years, but supporters never mustered enough votes to move the legislation forward.

Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968, changed all that. President Johnson saw the fair housing legislation as a fitting memorial to Dr. King's work and urged Congress to enact it immediately.

Congress did, just seven days later. On April 11, 1968, President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. Today, it defines one of our central missions at HUD: to ensure that all housing is fair housing.

While we shine the spotlight on this issue each April, I assure you that combating housing discrimination is a 365-day-a-year battle that President Bush takes very seriously. And we appreciate the hard work that all of you put in on a daily basis to increase housing opportunities for all Americans.

As the racial and ethnic makeup of America continues to evolve, the need for a strong commitment to fair and equal treatment in the housing market will become even more urgent. Over two-thirds of the new households being formed this decade will be minority and immigrant.

We have made progress in ridding our communities of housing discrimination, but we have not yet reached the point where discrimination is a thing of the past. Recent studies tell us that minorities continue to face intolerable discrimination from mortgage lenders, real estate agents and apartment rental agents.

HUD's study of discrimination in metropolitan markets, which we issued last year, found that discrimination against African-Americans and Hispanics in home sales has modestly declined since we last studied the issue in 1989. In addition, rental discrimination against African-Americans has also gone down.

But we have made little progress on rental discrimination against Hispanics. Hispanics face discrimination one out of every four times they try to rent an apartment - the same level of discrimination they encountered in 1989. We must do better.

Recently, we have found that reported cases of housing discrimination are on the rise. This is not entirely a bad thing. As I have said, discrimination is still a problem for African-Americans and Hispanics when they try to buy or rent homes. This is well-documented.

But research indicates that less than 1% of suspected instances of discrimination are reported to the authorities. If reported cases of discrimination are on the rise, this means that our efforts to educate minority home buyers and renters about their rights are having success.

I am proud that President Bush's budget request to Congress asks for the largest ever fair housing budget: $50 million to assist our partners in targeting discrimination and educating people about their fair housing rights. This will ensure that we have the tools we need to increase public awareness of housing rights… and the tools necessary to enforce the Fair Housing Act.

President Bush has set a goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million by 2010. This is a priority because of the "homeownership gap" that exists between minorities and non-minorities. This gap has many causes, but discrimination is certainly a major factor.

Earlier this month, HUD and representatives of the real estate industry once again joined forces when we signed an agreement that builds on our shared commitment to lifting more minorities into homeownership.

The agreement signed by HUD and the national associations representing realtors, real estate brokers, Hispanic real estate professionals, and Asian American real estate professionals outlines specific commitments by our partners to eliminate discrimination that blocks families from homeownership.

At HUD, among our efforts is a $600,000 initiative to combat lending discrimination, including predatory lending. This initiative will examine the lending patterns in the prime and subprime markets, and take action where the law has been violated.

We are also working in close concert with state and local governments, fair housing groups, and the lending and real estate industries, to implement a major education and enforcement campaign designed to reduce predatory lending practices.

HUD is also beefing up our enforcement of fair housing laws. This means doing more timely and efficient investigations of cases that allege mortgage discrimination. We are acquiring software that will help us better analyze loans so we can handle these cases more efficiently.

And we have already made significant progress in this area. In January 2001, when the Bush Administration took office, HUD's percentage of "aged" cases - those cases that hadn't been resolved within the 100-day period established by law - was 85 percent. By committing additional staff and resources, we've reduced the percentage to 29 percent, the lowest it has ever been.

Another of HUD's major responsibilities is ensuring equal access for individuals with disabilities, and increasing the number of housing units accessible to them.

We are bolstering our efforts through HUD's most extensive housing accessibility training program to date. We launched the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program in January. FIRST is designed to help architects, builders, disability advocates, and others design and construct multifamily housing that complies with Fair Housing Act requirements.

In addition, HUD awarded a $900,000 grant to the International Code Council to help state and local governments adopt building codes that are consistent with the Act.

When builders, developers and architects receive the information they need, we help them avoid costly retrofitting. Ultimately, this increases housing opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Today, I am announcing another major step in our efforts to increase awareness of fair housing laws.

I am pleased to be joined by Peggy Conlon, President of The Ad Council. We have worked in partnership to produce a public education campaign, funded by HUD, to increase awareness of housing discrimination.

Also joining this partnership are the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). LCCREF has worked with the Ad Council since 1992 on a number of anti-discrimination campaigns. LCCREF and NFHA will be working with their numerous local affiliates and community organizations to promote this campaign.

This will be a nationwide ad campaign in both English and Spanish. Television, radio and print Public Service Announcements will be distributed to more than 28,000 media outlets. This effort will benefit all Americans, particularly minorities, by increasing recognition and reporting of housing discrimination.

It is now with great pleasure that I welcome Peggy Conlon, who will discuss in further detail our partnership and the work that went into producing these wonderful ads.

Please join me in welcoming Peggy Conlon.

Content Archived: March 16, 2010

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