A large segment of my work involves advising landlords and property managers about fair housing laws and counseling them what they can and cannot do in the rental industry with regard to the federal and state fair housing laws and discrimination in general. As such, I recently took the time to read the National Fair Housing Alliance’s (NFHA) 2010 Fair Housing Trends Report which was published May 26, 2010.
To provide you with some background on the protected classes and fair housing law in general you may wish to review my July 10th post which discusses the various protected classes or visit Atty. Ron Leshnower’s Fair Housing Blog.
Some of the relevant highlights of the report are below.
- In 2009 there were a total of 30,213 fair housing complaints filed. This is a significantly higher number of complaint than in past years. It should be noted that all of these complaints do not arise in the context of rental housing — many involve mortgage lending, hosing construction etc.
- NFHA conservatively estimates that there are over 4 million fair housing violations each year although most of them are never reported.
- In 2009 H.U.D. (U.S. Dep’t of Housing and Urban Development) and D.O.J. (Department of Justice) charged more fair housing cases than in past years.
- Private fair housing groups continue to process the highest number of complaints — 19,924 (or 66%) of the total complaint load even though there are fewer private fair housing groups than in prior years.
- Since 1999, private non-profit fair housing organizations have processed 186,308 (66%) of the complaints. By comparison, Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies processed 69,358 complaints (25%), and HUD processed 25,881 (9%) of the cases.
- People with disabilities continued to be the protected class that is most discriminated against (or at least the most reported) in 2009. This was also true in 2008. The report explains that disability complaints remain high for several reasons: (1) HUD has an office devoted solely to disability issues, (2) many apartment owners make direct comments refusing to make reasonable accomodations or modifications for people with disabilities so the discrimination is easier to detect, (3) builders, developers, and architects still continue to design and construct apartment complexes that violate the Accesibility Guidelines, (4) every state has a Protection and Advocacy System and every city has one or more non-profit agencies dedicated to assisting people with cognitive, mental, sensory, and physical disabilities.
ASIDE: In a recent article from Milwaukee Magazine’s newsbuzz, disability related discrimination leads the way in Milwaukee also.
- In 2009, private fair housing groups reported 15, 624 complaints of housing discrimination in the rental market. FHAP agencies reported 6,464 and HUD reported 1,656. The report goes on to explain that one reason for the increase in the number of rental market complaints from prior years may be the foreclosure crises — i.e. many tenants were evicted when the owner defaulted on his/her mortgage and many others lost their homes and needed to enter the rental market where they faced discrimination.
- In 2009, several representatives in Washington introduced bills to extend the protection of the Fair Housing Act to create 2 additional federally protected classes: (1) gender identity, and (2) sexual orientation.
Obviously, more work needs to be done to ensure that landlords are aware of the protected classes and do not engage in discrimination, but as the title of the report says – 2009 was a “step in the right direction.”
ASIDE: There is a portion of the report that addresses fair housing implications of the foreclosure crisis that is very interesting and worth a read.