The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) has always been committed to strong and robust enforcement of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Toward that end, we have urged Congress to pass the Housing Fairness Act of 2009, H.R. 476. This legislation would broadly expand proven and effective measures for detecting and redressing housing discrimination. Unfortunately, forty-plus years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, housing discrimination is still pervasive. The most recent national Housing Discrimination Study, sponsored by HUD and conducted by the Urban Institute, uncovered high rates of racial discrimination in both the rental and sales markets.
It is important that effective tools be available to identify housing discrimination. Fair housing enforcement has long been accomplished through the use of paired testing to detect housing discrimination. In the last decade, nearly half of housing discrimination cases which resulted in financial settlements included testing evidence. LDF supports the nationwide testing initiative proposed by the Housing Fairness Act. A large scale testing program, conducted with the assistance of private fair housing organizations, can help to address systemic discrimination across the housing industry, including rentals, sales and mortgage lending. A nationwide testing program can also have a deterrent impact on members of the housing industry practicing discrimination.
LDF also supports H.R. 476’s provision for grants to non-profits to study the impact of housing discrimination on education, poverty, and economic development. We understand the deep structural role that residential segregation plays in perpetuating racial inequality in our nation’s schools. A student’s educational fate is often dependent upon where they live. It is incumbent upon all of us to focus on housing policy and enforcement of fair housing laws as a means to promote integration in education, as well as in residential patterns themselves.