Stronger Federal Enforcements Needed To Uphold Fair Housing Laws

CED-78-21: Published: Feb 2, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 2, 1978.

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Fair housing activities of federal agencies are largely covered by two civil rights acts. A review of the compliance and enforcement activities of federal housing agencies showed that their efforts have not been effective in identifying and eliminating discriminatory practices and seeking timely and appropriate settlements of complaints.

Applicants seeking housing under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) public housing and subsidized rental housing programs are not provided an equal opportunity on a first-come, first-serve basis as recommended by the agency's own title VI regulations. Applicants desiring a unit are allowed to refuse an unlimited number of offered units without being moved down on the list. This occurs because public housing authorities are not following the tenant selection plans, and subsidized rental housing projects are not required to maintain such plans. Although HUD and the Farmers Home Administration issued nearly identical title VI regulations which prohibit segregation among those receiving federal assistance, the regulations are not similarly implemented. The agency's efforts to resolve discrimination complaints in the private sector have also been ineffective. GAO reviewed 332 complaints received by three regional offices and found that the agency was unable to resolve 247 for lack of clear evidence of discrimination. The agency was able to determine that discrimination occurred in 57 cases; 36 cases were resolved. Housing and/or monetary compensation were received by 21 of the 36 complainants.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should: (1) require all program recipients to establish and implement tenant assignment plans that offer housing on a fair and equitable basis; (2) ensure that adequate records are maintained by program recipients to permit effective compliance reviews; (3) assess the significance of certain requirements such as rent paying ability and financial stability of projects in the terms of the objectives of title VI and prepare legislative proposals for change where necessary; (4) require that compliance reviews of housing authorities and section 236 and section 8 recipients be frequent and regularly scheduled; and (5) require that complaints be investigated promptly and thoroughly to ensure that recipients are complying with title VI. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development also should: (1) take action to ensure that complaints are investigated in a more timely manner; (2) educate the public on the importance of filing complaints as soon as possible after incidents occur; (3) establish a method for expediting the processing of those complaints that are required to be referred to state agencies; (4) monitor conciliation agreements to ensure compliance with title VIII; and (5) instruct the office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to use testers as part of its techniques for determining discrimination involving rental housing.

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