Year in Review: 2015 Fair Housing Trends
Written by Kibrett Facey
Before beginning a discussion about the fair housing trends of 2015, it is important to note that the stride towards equity and justice in fair housing was strengthened with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the use of disparate impact in fair housing claims as well as the enactment of HUD’s regulation to exhume and implement the “affirmatively furthering fair housing” (AFFH) provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. For those unfamiliar, the concept of “disparate impact” addresses the disproportionate, negative impact that certain policies have on those who belong to protected classes. Both disparate impact and AFFH aimed to improve fair housing regulation while fostering healthy communities that are inclusive and full of opportunity. According to the 2016 Fair Housing Trends report by the National Fair Housing Alliance, “They reinforce existing tools that can address the legacy of segregation and concentrated poverty that is so evident from the hate crimes and uprisings that have occurred in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston, and Orlando.” Without these two critical tools, it is possible that diversity and equity in communities around the country will reach a plateau. Housing discrimination still exists despite them, but without them, it would be even more prevalent.
Every year, the National Fair Housing Alliance garners data from nonprofit fair housing organizations and government agencies across the United States. With this data, they are able to piece together a report that shows fair housing enforcement activity. This report illustrates many things, one of those being the finding that private fair housing agencies take on the bulk of housing discrimination claims nationally. In 2015, private fair housing enforcement agencies investigated upwards of 70 percent of fair housing cases. This is twice as much as all other agencies. It is also a testament to the fact that the existence of private fair housing enforcement agencies is non-negotiable in a society that values equity and opportunity. There are many housing discrimination cases that are reported annually, but in no way does this mean that it is reflective of the discrimination that persists in this nation. Housing discrimination often goes undetected and underreported for a number of reasons including fear of retaliation and fear of inaction on the behalf of the law. While these instances of underreporting may exist, the number of cases received is still one that is alarming.
According to the 2016 Fair Housing Trends Report, there were 27,944 reported complaints in 2015. Over 27,000 people in our nation felt that they were being discriminated against almost 50 years after a law was put in place to eradicate unfair housing practices. Looking deeper into the data, it shows that the three protected classes that have experienced housing discrimination the most are: (1) Disability, (2) Race, and (3) Familial Status. Simply put, those with disabilities or those with children have been discriminated against in high volumes along with those discriminated against on the basis of their race. Housing discrimination against persons with disabilities accounted for 55.1 percent (15,332) of total discrimination complaints filed while 19.9 percent (5,563) were on the basis of race and 10.3 percent (2,876) accounted for the discrimination that occurred on the basis of familial status. As far as the other protected classes go, national origin complaints made up 9.5 percent of total complains while sex-based discrimination trailed behind with 6.8 percent. The most infrequent bases of discrimination were color and religion with percentages as low as 1 percent and complaints in the low hundreds. There were also 2,147 discrimination complains that were listed in the “other” category. These included many of the protected classes of states and municipalities such as source of income discrimination, age discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination.
The numbers don’t lie, but they also don’t provide us with the entire picture. These statistics are a mere snapshot of the housing discrimination that occurs in the United States. Unfortunately, there are many more cases that get swept under the rug, but this gives us even more reason to unify and fight housing discrimination. Many have the tainted perception that having a tough stance on fair housing law will be nothing short of a detriment to them. They assume that initiatives striving for equity will strip them of their rights and alter the way that they live their lives. It is time for America to realize that opportunity and equity betters the lives of every person in this country. Adequate housing is the wellspring of an individual’s success, and it is our job to ensure that it is obtainable.