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Photo: Erol Ahmed

There were 28,843 reported housing discrimination complaints in 2017, representing a slight increase from complaints reported in 2016, according to the National Fair Housing Alliance's 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report: Making Every Neighborhood a Place of Opportunity.

The majority of these complaints, 71.3 percent, were handled by private, nonprofit fair housing organizations, most of which are members of NFHA.

In comparison, HUD, which Congress has tasked with ensuring effective enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, processed 1,311 complaints, less than 5 percent of the total.

State and local governmental Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies processed 6,896 complaints and the Department of Justice brought 41 cases.

Even though the overall number of complaints has risen, HUD and FHAP agencies processed fewer complaints in 2017 than in 2016.

The 2018 report provides insights into current fair housing needs that require more attention from housing advocates, housing providers, industry, and the federal government. 

It also highlights recent obstacles to fair housing, such as Facebook’s enabling of discriminatory ads by housing providers and HUD’s suspension of implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, intended to address the ongoing historical and systemic segregation that exists in virtually all communities in the United States.

Report highlights:

  • More than half a million housing discrimination complaints have been processed since 1996, when NFHA first began collecting complaint data.
  • Since 1991, more than 70,000 units of multi-family housing have been made accessible to persons with disabilities through litigation brought primarily by DOJ and private, nonprofit fair housing organizations.
  • Since 1988, dozens of cases alleging redlining and discrimination by mortgage lenders have resulted in close to $1 billion in compensation to victims of mortgage lending discrimination and for investment in communities.
  • There were 28,843 complaints of housing discrimination in 2017.
  • The three most common types of complaints in 2017 were based on disability (57 percent), race (19 percent), and family status (9 percent).
  • The biggest obstacle to fair housing rights is the federal government’s failure to enforce the law vigorously.

Lisa Rice, president and CEO of NFHA, said in a news release, “This is a pivotal year for fair housing. … We must put an end to the many institutionalized barriers that prevent too many families in this country from fair access to housing. We must commit to making every neighborhood a place of opportunity for its residents and to making all communities open to all people, regardless of race, national origin, disability, or other protected status. It has been 50 years and the Fair Housing Act still has not been fully implemented. We cannot build a thriving society as long as our nation is plagued by discrimination, segregation, and severe economic inequality.”

The Fair Housing Act has the potential to be one of the most powerful laws in the country, but its effectiveness has been stymied by entrenched policies and practices that perpetuate discrimination and segregation; ineffective enforcement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Justice; and inadequate allocation of resources to public and private fair housing programs at all levels.

NFHA’s report documents that much has been achieved under the act but that significant hurdles remain, even while new obstacles emerge, such as industry use of new technologies that present barriers to fair housing, rampant gentrification, and the ramifications of rebuilding after disasters.

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