The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has announced that it is launching a national media campaign to kick off Fair Housing Month, celebrated across the country each April to commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act. The “Live Free” campaign will use newspaper and magazine ads, as well as the latest digital media, including social networking sites, to increase the Department’s efforts to educate the public and housing providers about their fair housing rights and responsibilities.
“Much has changed since the Fair Housing Act became law in 1968. Our country is more diverse than it’s ever been. These changes have brought new challenges as we continue our fight to address inequality in housing,” said John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Our society is more technologically advanced today. Therefore, this new campaign uses the latest media tools to better reach all people about housing discrimination and what to do if they experience it.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in housing transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or family status.
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) will introduce the campaign and discuss current and future enforcement initiatives during the Department’s Fair Housing Month opening program, which will take place at HUD headquarters. The keynote speaker for the program will be U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who will be joined by HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, FHEO Assistant Secretary Trasviña, HUD senior managers and fair housing advocates from throughout the region.
The “Live Free” campaign will run throughout the year and include Facebook ads, targeted print ads, digital videos, and podcasts that draw attention to the different types of discrimination HUD and its partner agencies see today, including discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals. One case HUD handled and settled this past year involved a disabled Louisiana woman who couldn’t get a home loan because the bank wouldn’t allow her son, who was acting with her power of attorney, to complete the paperwork. In another recent HUD case, First National Bank of St. Louis agreed to invest more than $2.5 million in two Missouri counties and one Illinois county after the bank failed to provide services in African American neighborhoods. Examples of other HUD cases include a Wisconsin family that was denied the opportunity to view an apartment because they have children, and a New Hampshire woman who was discriminated against and insulted by her landlord because she is married to a Hispanic man.
These types of cases dramatize today’s fair housing challenges and highlight the importance of the Department’s enforcement efforts. HUD recently awarded $40.8 million to 108 fair housing organizations and non-profit agencies to address housing discrimination, including mortgage rescue scams.