This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark 1968 legislation that protects renters and homebuyers from discrimination. The Fair Housing Act is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and recently it was reported that Department leadership is moving to remove reference to combatting discrimination from HUD’s mission statement, preferring to emphasize self-sufficiency. Like other proposals and messaging coming out of HUD, the new emphasis ignores evidence. Promoting self-sufficiency is important and NHT and the Preservation Working Group (PWG) have long championed expanding HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program to multifamily properties. Congress has an opportunity this year to permanently offer the successful program to multifamily owners and should also consider offering multifamily owners the same funds to operate the program that public housing authorities receive.
But discrimination still exists and enforcing the Fair Housing Act remains among HUD’s most important roles. It’s convenient to argue that race and class are the same but stunning new data from the Equality of Opportunity Project and highlighted recently in the Upshot in the New York Times debunks that once and for all. The data forcefully demonstrates that black men across the board earn less than their white male counterparts even when growing up with the same benefits including access to opportunity.
Recognizing that our existing advocacy strategies are not working as well as we would like, NHT is thinking differently about how we drawn attention to the affordable housing crisis and the stories of our residents. That’s why we’ve launched our “Where Will We Live?” Campaign with Enterprise Community Partners and support from Funders for Housing Opportunity (FHO) and the JPB Foundation. Our team is lifting up the voices of our residents and their communities to tell their stories—of opportunity and sometimes of discrimination—and amplifying their voices. Maybe if Congress and the Administration hears from them, they will be reminded of the centrality of the Fair Housing Act and its importance to HUD’s mission.