Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez premiered HUD's new cutting edge, multimedia campaign designed to fight housing discrimination by showing the many faces of those persons protected by the nation's 35-year-old Fair Housing Act.
Produced by New York-based ad agency Merkley Newman Harty in partnership with The Advertising Council, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the new campaign directs the audience to HUD's toll free hotline 1-800-669-9777. The ads are intended to raise public awareness of federal law prohibiting discrimination and to encourage victims and witnesses to report acts of housing bias.
"These print and broadcast public service announcements are a powerful demonstration that it is not only wrong to discriminate in housing, it is against the law," said Martinez. "Thirty-five years after this important civil rights legislation, it is important to remember that fair housing isn't optional. It is a right."
Martinez unveiled the new public service campaign to an annual conference of hundreds of fair housing professionals meeting in Atlanta. Each year, HUD hosts fair housing practitioners to discuss an array of issues including effective investigative techniques, predatory lending practices, accessibility issues for persons with disabilities and innovative public education approaches.
The new campaign marks the 35th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in April of 1968, this landmark legislation prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Amendments to the Act in 1988 extended its coverage to prohibit discrimination based on disability or familial status.
Last year, HUD released a study entitled Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets. This report found that while housing discrimination has been significantly reduced, it is still pervasive among certain racial and ethnic groups. Among the report's findings, sales and rental discrimination against African-Americans and sales discrimination against Hispanics have declined since 1989. Meanwhile, rental discrimination against Hispanic families remains unchanged at about 25 percent.
HUD is stepping up its enforcement of housing discrimination. Over the past two years, the number of backlogged cases of alleged discrimination has been significantly reduced. At the start of the Bush Administration, some 85 percent of cases were considered "aged" or over a hundred days old. By last October, that rate was down to 29 percent. Similarly, backlogged cases among state and local HUD contractors dropped from 69 to 44 percent.
In addition, President Bush is requesting an eight percent increase for HUD's fair housing budget to nearly $50 million. Approximately $30 million will support the Department's Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), which forges partnerships between HUD and state and local jurisdictions to support enforcement, education and outreach activities. The remaining $20 million will assist HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), which provides grants to non-profit agencies that directly target discrimination and educate the public.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws.
For more information at http://www.hud.gov