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Congressman Al Green’s Housing Fairness Act Successfully Moves Forward in Congress

Aiming to Fight Discrimination and Predatory Lending, It Will Also Advocate for Veterans with Housing Needs

Yesterday, Congressman Al Green’s (TX-09) “Veterans, Women, Families with Children, and Persons with Disabilities Housing Fairness Act of 2010” (H.R. 476) was unanimously voted out of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and forwarded to the Committee on Financial Services with a favorable recommendation. Upon favorable vote by the full committee, it will go to the Floor to be voted on by the House of Representatives.

“This bill represents one more step forward in ending housing discrimination, especially against disabled persons and particularly against our veterans,” said Congressman Al Green at the beginning of the mark up session held by the Subcommittee. He pointed to a 2008 report by the National Fair Housing Alliance which indicated that 31.3 to 49 percent of over 30,000 fair housing complaints filed that year were based upon disability. “Given that there are approximately 2.9 million disabled veterans, there is reason to believe that many veterans and military personnel face housing discrimination.”

The bipartisan bill, which has 64 cosponsors, seeks to provide more resources to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate and enforce fair housing laws that protect against discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and related services. According to one estimate by the University of Wisconsin, more than four million fair housing violations occur every year. Due to a lack of funds, just 30,000 are reported to federal, state or local fair housing authorities and only a handful are investigated, with less than 120 actually resulting in prosecution.

The Veterans, Women, Families with Children, and Persons with Disabilities Housing Fairness Act would authorize a $5 million competitive matching grant program for private non-profit organizations to examine the causes of housing discrimination and segregation, as well as their effects on education, poverty and economic development. It includes a provision to study the effects of housing discrimination on veterans and military personnel.

Congressman Green said, “The 1968 Fair Housing Act was signed into law because of the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring civil rights and justice in housing to all Americans. This bill outlawed discrimination in housing based upon race, color, religion, and national origin. In 1974, sex was added to the list. In 1988, persons with disabilities were added, and now H.R. 476 will add a focus on veterans and military personnel.”

The Housing Fairness Act is endorsed by 13 organizations: the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Greenlining Institute, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, the American Legion, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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