by Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Housing discrimination has long been one of the pillars of systemic racism and social injustice in our country. It robs people of color of the wealth they earn. It traps Black and Brown children in underfunded schools. It divides our communities. And sadly, it is still an issue that Congress must address.
Last month, I stood up to stop Republicans from dismantling an effort to stop housing discrimination. Here’s what happened, and what can do about it.
Since 1968, elements of the Civil Rights Act have been used to correct the imbalance and inherent unfairness facing people who are subjected to discrimination when applying for housing. While the Fair Housing Act has been helpful in stopping slumlords from discriminating against tenants, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development created formal guidance for enforcing the mandates established by the law.
During the Trump Administration, slumlords had one of their own in the White House, and the fair housing rules were dismantled, defunded, and eventually repealed. The Trump action had the intended effect, and cases of fair housing discrimination have been rising, with recent data from the National Fair Housing Alliance indicating a nearly 10% increase in housing discrimination complaints in the year following the rule’s repeal. In fact, the 2021 trends show the highest number of housing discrimination complaints since the organization first started collecting data 25 years ago.
The Biden Administration worked to address this trend by strengthening fair housing enforcement, but a Republican bill recently sought to block the Administration’s new fair housing rule, siding with lenders and corporations at the expense of renters and homeowners.
The Republican bill burdens working families who cannot find a place to live because they face discrimination. It burdens homeowners who are robbed of their hard-earned equity because of appraisal discrimination. It burdens people who are denied fair housing because they are disabled veterans or identify as LGBTQ+. The Republican bill blocks all these people from getting a fair shake and forces more people out onto the streets.
During the Appropriations Committee meeting where this bill was considered, I offered an amendment that would have struck the language blocking the enforcement of the new fair housing rule. Unsurprisingly, the Republican majority on the committee voted down my amendment. But the debate highlighted an important issue facing our country – housing discrimination is metastasizing. And it helped highlight the solution – electing more representatives who will fight for fair housing.
I’m running for Senate because I have lived the struggles of everyday Californians. I know what it is like to rely on public assistance in tough times. Californians facing housing discrimination deserve a Senator who will make reestablishing the fair housing rule a priority, and who has the experience to deliver.
Housing discrimination has long been one of the pillars of systemic racism and social injustice in our country. But it doesn’t need to be. I’m running for Senate to end housing discrimination for good.