Fair Housing Enforcement Increases Across the Country

Fair Housing HUD

Authorities continue to increase their enforcement of fair housing laws as demand for housing swells across the country.

The federal Fair Housing Act, passed in the 1960s, prohibits denying housing opportunities to individuals based on a protected class such as race, gender, or national origin. But many landlords continue to deny housing to individuals on these bases, even those who have partnered with federal agencies to provide homes to some of the nation’s most economically disadvantaged.

For example, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring is investigating the housing conditions at two multiunit properties that cater to one of South Richmond’s largest Hispanic communities. The investigation follows a report that found apartments at these properties had mold, were infested with rats and roaches, and some homes had significant maintenance issues that the landlords were responsible for fixing.

Current and former residents have complained of these issues for at least two decades. They also say that the $10 million renovations that one of the properties underwent a few years ago didn’t address many of the issues that are present today.

A survey of 100 homes at these properties by New Virginia Majority, a tenants rights organization, found that 88 units had rodents, 78 had roaches, and 59 had mold, among other issues.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he supports the investigation:

“Regardless of their background, no resident should feel they have to make a choice between living in unsanitary conditions and the fear of housing discrimination for speaking up to have those conditions addressed,” he said.

This investigation follows two recent fair housing enforcement actions taken by federal authorities. At the end of December, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) settled with four southern California public housing providers accused of discriminating against potential residents because of their national origin.

According to HUD, the case came up on its radar after the Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board (IFHMB), a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, conducted an on-site test at one of the housing providers. During the test, one of the on-site managers allegedly refused to rent to a person who did not speak much English and told them they must learn the language to be added to the waitlist for housing.

The settlement requires the housing providers to pay a fine and complete additional fair housing training.

“Individuals and families seeking to obtain decent, affordable housing shouldn’t be turned away just because they don’t speak English,” said Demetria McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “[The] settlement represents HUD’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that housing providers meet their obligations under Title VI and the Fair Housing Act to welcome all applicants, regardless of the language they speak.”

Not long after HUD settled the case, the Department of Justice (DOJ) secured a $65,000 settlement for a single Black mother in Oklahoma. She was denied housing because of her race.

The case stemmed from an incident in 2020. A nonprofit organization in Oklahoma called Legal Aid attempting to match one of their clients with a vacant housing unit at the Lone Wolf Housing Authority. However, the lawsuit alleges that the mother’s application was denied once employees at Lone Wolf found out that the applicant and her child were both Black.

Legal Aid then sent in a white fair housing tester to apply for housing. Lone Wolf replied that there were several options available. To confirm their suspicions, Legal Aid sent another Black tester to Lone Wolf along with her granddaughter. Lone Wolf subsequently told them that no apartments were available.

“Housing authorities are entrusted with tax-payer dollars to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “It is abhorrent that a housing authority would deny a home to any applicant on the basis of race. The Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal law to ensure that no one is unlawfully denied housing because of race or for any other prohibited reason.”

How You Can Help

The pandemic proved that we need to rethink housing in the U.S. It also showed that aid programs work when agencies and service organizations are provided with sufficient funds and clear guidance on spending aid dollars.

Contact your representatives. Tell them you support fair housing protections. We must ensure everyone has access to a safe and affordable home. These protections have proven effective at keeping people housed. This is the first step to ending homelessness once and for all.

Robert Davis

Robert Davis

Robert is a freelance journalist based in Colorado who covers housing, police, and local government.

Related Topics

Your support can create amazing change

Join the campaign to end homelessness by supporting the only newsroom focused solely on the topic of homelessness. Our original reporting — posted five to seven days a week — can also be found on Apple News and Google News. Through storytelling, education, news, and advocacy, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.

Invisible People is a nonprofit organization. We rely on the support of friends like you — people who understand that well-written, carefully researched stories can change minds about this issue. And that’s what leads to true transformation and policy change. Our writers have their fingers on the pulse of homeless communities. Many are formerly or currently homeless themselves. They are the real experts, passionate about ending homelessness. Your support helps us tell the true story of this crisis and solutions that will end it. Your donations help make history by telling the real story of homelessness to inspire tangible actions to end it.

Your donation, big or small, will help bring real change.


Get the Invisible People newsletter


Homeless Man on the Streets of NYC after His Wife Died


Young Homeless Woman Living in RV in Seattle


Homeless Woman Sleeps next to the Street to Avoid Arrest


homeless man in austin



Justice40 Initiative to address climate change and flooding

Justice40 Initiative Includes Affordable Housing, Sustainability, and Disaster Relief

homeless encampment sweeps

Study Reveals Encampment Sweeps Are Harmful to Homeless People’s Health

Brockville Encampment

Brockville Streetfriends Offers Insight on Removal of Tent Encampments

criminalization of homelessness and climate change

The Unspoken Connection Between Climate Change and Homeless Criminalization

Get the Invisible People newsletter