11/1/2019 in News & Media, Press Releases

New NFHA Report Highlights Unprecedented Attacks on Fair Housing and Alarming Uptick in Discrimination Complaints

The National Fair Housing Alliance also confronts impacts of algorithmic bias due to the spread of technology in credit and housing access decisions

October 31, 2019

Contact: Madeline McBride (202) 898-1661 Mmcbride@nationalfairhousing.org

WASHINGTON—The goal of achieving fair housing in the United States is under extraordinary duress, while housing discrimination complaints and related hate crimes have risen dramatically. The Trump administration moved aggressively to eviscerate the laws and regulations that require equal treatment for all, according to a new report released today by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Defending Against Unprecedented Attacks on Fair Housing: 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report.

The Fair Housing Act is under attack by the Trump administration and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—the agency charged with enforcing it—in a stark departure from the bipartisan support the law has received since it was enacted in 1968. 

“The Fair Housing Act has never been enforced with the vigor that Americans deserve, even under administrations that were largely supportive of its goals. Now, we are in a never-before-seen situation where the White House and HUD are the law’s greatest destabilizers, architects of an unabashed campaign to weaken civil rights protections,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA.

The administration has shown its antipathy to the law with a two-pronged operation. HUD has effectively suspended a long-awaited rule, adopted in 2015, that was the first ever to require recipients of federal funds to take meaningful steps to end segregation and eliminate artificial and discriminatory barriers to housing. The rule is known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation.

In addition, HUD issued a proposed regulation that would alter a key standard of proof, known as “disparate impact,” that has been critical in challenging seemingly benign policies and practices that actually have a discriminatory effect on victims of discrimination. At the same time, HUD has advanced unsound defenses for lenders, insurance companies, housing providers, and entities using algorithmic-based systems that would make it nearly impossible for claimants to succeed with discrimination challenges.

These moves have exacerbated a housing scene that was already stressed.

The report notes:

  • The number of housing discrimination complaints in 2018 is up by eight percent to 31,202, the highest since NFHA began producing the annual Fair Housing Trends Report in 1995.
  • Private fair housing groups continue to process more complaints, 75 percent, than all government agencies combined.
  • Hate crime offenses increased by an alarming 14.7 percent.
  • The Trump administration has launched unprecedented attacks on fair housing in an effort to chill civil rights enforcement.  
  • The use of technology is on the rise, can manifest discriminatory outcomes, and has profound impacts on people’s ability to access housing, credit, and insurance.
  • Increased scrutiny of sexual harassment in housing has led to an unprecedented number of cases against housing providers who prey on vulnerable residents who cannot move to a new location because of the lack of affordable housing options.

NFHA works in collaboration with its membership and other civil rights partners to preserve fair housing laws and the regulations that guide their implementation.  In a fervent defense of civil rights, fair housing advocates confront a fresh set of challenges, like algorithmic bias, that perpetuates housing, lending, and insurance discrimination. 

The housing picture is not entirely bleak. 

Successful lawsuits by NFHA and other fair housing groups led Facebook to revamp its advertising system and establish advertising portals for housing, employment, and credit, eliminating the ability to target based on protected characteristics and their proxies.

The report contains targeted recommendations to address the complex issues in today’s housing system. Among them is support for legislation designed to:

  • Prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in public accommodations, education, federal funding, employment, credit, and housing.
  • Amend the Fair Housing Act to provide protections against discrimination in housing and housing-related services on the basis of source of income, veteran status, or military status.

This is the latest in a series of annual reports in which NFHA compiles and analyzes housing discrimination data and trends throughout the U.S. to provide a comprehensive understanding of the state of fair housing.

Full Report: https://nationalfairhousing.org/2019-fair-housing-trends-report/ 

About the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)

Founded in 1988, NFHA is a consortium of more than 200 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NFHA provides comprehensive education, advocacy, community development, and enforcement programs.