Housing MarketReal Estate

Fair housing complaints remained elevated in 2020

National Fair Housing Alliance's yearly report found that in 2020, nearly 29,000 fair housing complaints were filed

Stay-at-home orders spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic did not have a notable impact on the velocity of fair housing complaints received in 2020 by organizations, according to a yearly trends report published by the National Fair Housing Alliance this week.

The report— which aggregates complaints received by private, non-profit fair housing organizations, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, fair housing partner agencies and the Department of Justice— found that 28,712 fair housing complaints were filed last year, a trivial decline from the 28,880 complaints filed in 2019.

Not surprisingly, by transaction type, the rental market received a hefty 20,860 fair housing complaints, representing 76.65% of all transactions reported, a slight decrease from 83.75% in 2019.

Real estate sales complaints comprised 2.6% of all cases reported, totaling 747 complaints, and mortgage lending had a mere 238 complaints (in line with the 234 complaints in 2019), the report said.

The NFHA highlighted that 2020 saw a 9% increase in reported fair housing harassment and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, while housing discrimination harassment complaints based on sex and disability increased by 40%.

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Lisa Rice, president and CEO of NFHA, remarked in a statement that despite the government-mandated orders “to stay home to keep each other safe… for too many Americans, home was still not safe enough.”

“Governments at the local, state, and federal levels moved swiftly to enact eviction moratoriums and other emergency housing protections during the pandemic. We need to move with that same urgency to address housing discrimination,” said Rice.

Regions with the largest number of complaints filed: Hawaii/Pacific with 8,639 complaints, the Midwest with 5,263 complaints and the Southeast/ Caribbean with 3,265 complaints, NFHA concluded, relying on data provided by HUD. However, numbers may be significantly larger, said the nonprofit, as housing discrimination is difficult to identify and document.

The report also found that fair housing complaints alleging discrimination due to disability continue to make up the largest portion of claims at 56.6%. Meanwhile, race-based complaints made up 16.8% of claims and familial status discrimination accounted for 7.93% of claims filed. (The NFHA collects discrimination data based on the seven federally protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.)

The nonprofit added that private fair housing organizations continue to process close to three times the number of complaints (73.45%) as state, local, and federal government agencies combined and urged more funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

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