Chairman Price Statement at Hearing on Stakeholder Perspectives on Fair Housing

February 27, 2019
Press Release

Congressman David Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on "Stakeholder Perspectives on Fair Housing":

The hearing will come to order.  Welcome, everyone, to our second THUD subcommittee hearing this year.

Today, we will be taking a deep dive into fair housing, a critical component of our ongoing national effort to combat discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for all our nation’s citizens. 

Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Housing Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. 

This and other landmark laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, have bolstered and expanded fair housing protections for millions of people, whether it’s someone seeking a mortgage, renting an apartment, or living in federally-assisted housing. 

These laws promote equal rights and economic opportunity, but the Fair Housing Act goes one step further. 

It requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its state and local grantees to affirmatively further the goals of the Act. 

In other words, there is an expectation that communities will proactively combat discrimination to overcome historic patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities. This was an area that was seeing renewed focus until the Administration indefinitely suspended a rule intended to address it.

HUD has an obligation to receive and investigate fair housing complaints; issue grants to state and local governments as well as non-profit organizations that help enforce our fair housing laws; and assist communities as they seek to comply with the Fair Housing Act. 

These activities support what should be a bedrock federal commitment to fair housing—unfortunately, we’ve seen some troubling signs in the last two years that this commitment is waning at HUD headquarters.

The number of high-profile “Secretary-initiated” fair housing complaints, which are intended to address systemic discrimination, have dropped precipitously. 

The “disparate impact” rule that sought to ensure lenders and landlords were held accountable for discrimination—whether the discrimination was intentional or not—is being reassessed.

Guidance for the Equal Access rule which laid out protections for LGBT individuals has been removed from the HUD website.

HUD has yet to distribute fair housing enforcement grants despite having received funding for this purpose in the FY18 THUD bill enacted last April.  As a result, local organizations that work with vulnerable populations are feeling pinched.

There are also concerning reports about HUD’s dwindling staffing levels and internal capacity when it comes to enforcing our fair housing laws.

Finally, we need to come to terms with new and emerging trends in housing discrimination. 

Who faces discrimination today, and what is being done about it?  How has technology made it easier or more difficult to enforce fair housing laws?  How can HUD improve their oversight and how can this subcommittee be an active partner in this effort?

To help us examine these questions, I’m pleased to have two expert witnesses join us today:

Claudia Aranda is a Senior Research Associate and Director of Field Operations at the Urban Institute, where she conducts research on the housing market and housing discrimination.  She has supervised numerous empirical studies about differential treatment in rental housing markets, including on behalf of HUD.

We’re also excited to have Keenya Robertson with us this morning all the way from Miami, Florida.  She is President and CEO of the Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence (HOPE), Inc., a private non-profit fair housing organization.  Prior to her work with HOPE, Ms. Robertson worked as an attorney fighting on behalf of people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations in Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Both witnesses will provide us with valuable insight and perspectives about fair housing, and we expect this hearing will help inform our subcommittee’s work as engage with HUD officials on this issue in the months ahead and, eventually, draft an FY20 appropriations bill.

Thank you both for being here, and I look forward to your testimony.

I’d now like to recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Diaz-Balart, for his opening statement.

 
116th Congress