Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price,
As the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee determines appropriations levels for Fiscal Year 2019, we respectfully request funding of $45 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), as well as $24.3 million for the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP).
Since its creation by the Reagan Administration, FHIP has helped many families access housing free from discrimination, and prepared local housing providers to better understand their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. FHIP is a competitive grant program that provides localized assistance to Americans who face housing and lending discrimination. It supports qualified, private, nonprofit fair housing organizations in their investigations of housing discrimination; as well as outreach to local housing providers so they better understand their fair housing responsibilities, and tenants so the public knows its rights. FHIP is only source of federal funding that supports these critically important fair housing services.
Qualified private organizations which receive FHIP grants investigate over 71% of all complaints each year - more than all local, state, or federal government fair housing enforcement agencies combined. These fair housing organizations are uniquely suited to address housing discrimination: they are mission-driven; operate as boots on the ground, so they are attuned to local housing-market dynamics; serve people of all income levels who face discrimination; and often achieve resolution for victims without the need for costly and time-consuming lawsuits.
As such, FHIP plays an important role in ensuring that limited time and resources are prioritized for meritorious fair housing complaints in the nation's court systems. In 2011, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a study which expounded upon the role of FHIP grantees in filtering out cases that have no fair housing basis and do not merit investigations. The same study also noted that FHIP funds are especially important in the investigation of complicated fair housing cases that require specialized expertise. By vetting complaints of housing discrimination, fair housing organizations help avoid unnecessary lawsuits and administrative adjudication procedures that divert resources and time away from complaints of actual housing discrimination.
We are requesting more than the President's FY19 request for the FHIP program because this level of funding does not meet the known needs of direct fair housing services in the nation. Each year, over four million acts of housing discrimination occur in the rental housing market alone, yet less than one percent is reported. Current funding levels leave over a dozen states without a full-service private nonprofit fair housing organization. Funding must be increased to better couple education and outreach with private enforcement that allows grantees to achieve productive outcomes that make victims of discrimination whole again.
FHAP agencies also conduct cost-effective fair housing work. Designed to build coordinated intergovernmental enforcement of fair housing laws, FHAP provides incentives for states and localities to assume responsibilities for enforcing fair housing laws. State and local enforcement agencies elect to participate in the FHAP program. For an agency to receive funding, each FHAP agency must meet specific eligibility criteria and be certified by HUD to enforce state or local fair housing laws that are substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act. After receiving certification, FHAP agencies receive HUD funding based on the number of cases they successfully process.
While our nation has made great strides in eliminating housing discrimination, too often families with children, women, people with disabilities, people of color, and religious minorities face unnecessary barriers to housing choice where they can have a fair shot at a safe and stable home. Whether by discriminatory ads barring children in apartments, or through unequal treatment of people of color in mortgage applications, housing discrimination has deep consequences in every neighborhood and for the people that experience it. We as a body must do everything in our power to support the efforts of fair housing organizations and work to increase the resources that support these important groups. We must do this to ensure our constituents have the opportunity to acquire the home of their dreams in the neighborhood of their choice where their children can prosper.
Funding HUD's FHIP program at $45 million and FHAP at $24.3 million in FY 2019 will help to support the important work of addressing housing discrimination and keeping housing opportunities available for every American. As you consider the FY 2019 T-HUD Appropriations bill, we request that you join us in our support for the FHIP and FHAP programs. We appreciate your attention to this important matter.