In 2003, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development received about 8,000 fair housing complaints. Then, two years ago, that number jumped to more than 10,000. Why the increase? No, it's not an increase in fair housing violations among apartment owners and developers.
Bryan Greene, deputy assistant secretary for enforcement and programs in HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity says it was the agency's push to educate the public about fair housing. The highlights of the campaign included the “Accents” and “Do You Still Like Me” public service announcements that Greene says were viewed by about 25 percent of the American television viewing public.
“We sustained a degree of public awareness, and it's hard to affect awareness and behavior,” Greene says. “People are not only aware [of fair housing], but they're choosing to fill out complaints.”
Another reason for the increase is the growing activity of groups that test for fair housing violations such as the Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C. In the 40 years since the Fair Housing Act was signed into law, much progress has been made in the area of fair housing. But Rabbi Bruce E. Kahn, executive director of the Equal Rights Center, thinks more needs to be done.
“We have a long way to go to achieve complete compliance with the Fair Housing Act,” Kahn says. “Our agency's experience over 25 years reveals that much of the noncompliance is intentional, but some is not. Either way, I am convinced that compliance will improve enormously and consistently when the housing industry and groups such as the Equal Rights Center decide to work closely together to fully realize the purpose and the promise of the landmark legislation that is the Fair Housing Act.”