April is National Fair Housing Month, a month to celebrate the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in April 1968. The FHA originally prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or religion. During the Senate debate, Senator Edward Brooke shared his experience of returning from service in World War II only to experience multiple landlords discriminating against him because of his race. Alleviating housing segregation and advancing other fair housing issues was central to Senator Brooke’s work. Congress amended the FHA to ban sex discrimination in 1974, and discrimination based on disability and familial status—families with children—in 1988.
The Obama administration created rules that strengthened the implementation of the FHA, which the Trump administration gutted. Thousands of you joined us in telling the Trump administration that housing discrimination has no home here. Rolling back attacks on fair housing is part of our 100 Wins, 100 Days priorities for the Biden administration, and we are pleased to share these critical fair housing wins.
1. Mixed-Status Families
The Trump administration continuously attacked immigrant families. Former Secretary Carson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would have evicted 24,000 mixed-status families who currently receive prorated housing assistance based on the number of people in the household eligible for assistance. 56% of individuals in these families are women and girls, and 85% are Latinx. The proposal’s discriminatory documentation requirements for all HUD participants and applicants would have threatened housing assistance for more than 9.5 million people—disproportionately women, girls, and people of color.
Thankfully, HUD under the Biden administration ended this cruel proposal.
2. Disparate Impact
Discrimination in housing has changed over the years. Landlords, banks, government agencies, or other housing providers cannot outright say they deny access to housing based on a person’s race, sex, or national origin, but housing discrimination is still rampant. Many policies have discriminatory effects, or a “disparate impact.” In 2013, the Obama administration released a rule with a framework for courts to analyze disparate impact cases under the FHA. Unfortunately, Trump’s HUD issued a proposal that would have gutted this 2013 rule by making it virtually impossible to prove disparate impact discrimination in court.
The comments you submitted opposing the Trump proposal laid the foundation for a district court to stop it from going into effect, and the Biden administration withdrew the Trump administration’s appeal of the case. This means that the 2013 disparate impact rule is back in place, and we have an opportunity to work with the Biden administration to further solidify this helpful rule and dismantle more racist and sexist housing policies.
3. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
The FHA requires government to seek ways to limit housing discrimination through affirmative measures. Discriminatory housing policies, like redlining, created and perpetuated residential segregation and barriers to fair housing access for women, people with disabilities, people of color, and communities that have faced discrimination. In 2015, the Obama administration created a strong framework for communities receiving HUD funding to dismantle barriers to fair housing. Sadly, Trump’s HUD also dismantled this rule.
Thanks to your comments, the Biden administration recognizes how harmful the Trump administration’s action was and is seeking to reinstate the Obama administration rule.
4. Equal Access to Shelter
Under the Obama administration, HUD created an Equal Access Rule requiring HUD-funded single-sex shelters to admit someone based on their gender identity, providing critical protection for transgender people experiencing homelessness. Access to housing is more critical since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but Trump’s HUD proposed to gut this rule and promote sex discrimination in shelters. This would have permitted shelters to discriminate against trans people and anyone who did not conform to a shelter’s stereotypes of what a woman looks like. The Biden administration took note of your comments about how the Trump proposal would threaten transgender people’s access to shelter and safety. HUD ended this discriminatory proposal and released training and other resources to help shelters comply with the Equal Access Rule.
Thousands of you took action to support fair housing, and the Biden administration heeded. But this isn’t the end. Undoing harm from the Trump administration is critical progress, but more must be done to center gender and racial justice in housing policies. Housing is a human right, and you can help us work with the Biden administration to further fair housing for women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other people facing housing discrimination.