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The Future of Fair Housing - Report of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Forty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity was convened to travel across the country to collect information and hear testimony about the nature and extent of illegal housing discrimination, its connection with government policy and practice, and its effect on our communities. The Commission held hearings in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta.

On December 9, 2008, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the Commission reported on its findings.

  The President's Fair Housing Council

All of the federal agencies with responsibility over housing and urban development activities are obligated not only to promote fair housing, but to "cooperate with the Secretary [of HUD] to further such purposes." (42 U.S.C. § 3608) This requirement has generally been honored in the breach.[276]

Executive Order 12892 (1994) took this requirement of cooperation one step further, by establishing the "President's Fair Housing Council," which is required to "review the design and delivery of Federal programs and activities to ensure that they support a coordinated strategy to affirmatively further fair housing." The Fair Housing Council, which to our knowledge has only met once, goes beyond the housing-related agencies delineated in the Fair Housing Act to include virtually every other cabinet agency whose work may directly or indirectly affect housing.[277]

The Commission strongly supports the concept of the President’s Fair Housing Council, and recommends that it be given a stronger mandate in the new administration and staffed and reconvened as soon as possible – either within HUD or as part of the proposed White House Office of Urban Policy.

The multi-disciplinary approach of Executive Order 12892 recognizes that access to new housing opportunities may be constrained by other government policies and systems that have adapted to entrenched patterns of metropolitan segregation. For example, transportation systems designed in the 1970s to shuttle suburban workers into the central city may need to be retooled to support new commuting and residential patterns; distribution of community health facilities and administration of government-assisted health insurance may need to be adapted to support residential mobility; federal education grants may need to consider fair housing plans and voluntary school integration efforts; and the economic shifts associated with military base realignment should be implemented with regional fair housing planning in mind. The Council, in essence, encourages a federal fair housing review for major programs in all federal agencies, so that these programs are consciously aligned to support, not undermine, fair housing goals.

In particular, interagency fair housing coordination between HUD and the Department of Treasury needs to be strengthened and formalized.

Next Section: Revive the President’s Fair Housing Council


Footnotes

[276] Such cooperative arrangements have been underutilized but have the potential to enhance fair housing enforcement. For example, in 2000, the Department of Treasury, HUD, and the Department of Justice adopted a "Memorandum of Understanding" to require referrals by DOJ and HUD of discrimination complaints involving tax credit properties to the IRS for notification of owners and appropriate regulatory action.

[277] The Council "shall be chaired by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and shall consist of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, the Comptroller of the Currency, the Director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and such other officials of executive departments and agencies as the President may, from time to time, designate." Exec. Order No. 12,892, 59 Fed. Reg. 2939 (Jan. 20, 1994)

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  The Future of Fair Housing
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, NFHA has partnered with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund to create a national, bipartian fair housing commission to investigate the alarming state of U.S. housing in the wake of the subprime housing debacle.
On December 9, 2008, the commission released its findings and recommendations in this comprehensive report.
Appendices
Appendix C: Commissioner Correspondence on Foreclosure Relief Implementation
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