October/November 2010    
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Equal Housing Opportunity for All
John Blakeslee's winning poster in the Monmouth County, New Jersey Fair Housing Poster Contest held earlier this year.

When Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act in 1968, banks that refused to lend to minorities, "whites only" real estate agents, and other overtly discriminatory institutions and practices were far more common than they are today. But as The State of Fair Housing: Annual Report on Fair Housing, FY 2009 documents, discrimination persists m-dash  often in far subtler manifestations than it did 40 years ago.

Today, housing discrimination might come in the form of landlords who make repairs only for white tenants, or who refuse to rent to families with young children. Some landlords do not make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants so that they can access individual apartments or common areas such as laundry rooms. Lenders might offer riskier mortgage loans to minorities, or loan terms that are more favorable to churchgoers. In addition, with the advent of Internet lending, discriminatory advertising has become a persistent and increasing problem.

Fair Housing in 2009

In 2009, HUD and 105 state and local agencies received 10,242 alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act, marking the fourth year in a row wherein the number of complaints topped 10,000. The most common categories in which discrimination was alleged were based on disability (44%), race (31%), family status (20%), and national origin (13%). Sex (10%), religion (3%), color (2%), and retaliation or intimidation (6%) accounted for the remaining categories. (Some complaints fall into multiple categories, so percentages add up to more than 100.)

HUD also helped bring about a major settlement with Westchester County, New York, which allegedly made false claims to the federal government regarding its attempts to advance affordable housing without analyzing racial segregation patterns. The settlement was reached after a federal court ruled that the county had failed its legal obligation to explicitly analyze "the existence and impact of race discrimination on housing opportunities and choice in its jurisdiction." As part of the settlement, Westchester must build affordable units in areas with populations that are less than 3 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic.

Treatment Disparities

A woman in a wheel chair is utilizing an accessible trash dumpster.In recent years, a number of housing-related discriminatory trends have taken shape around the housing bubble and subsequent credit crunch. The 2009 report notes that minorities, who were once blocked from obtaining mortgages and credit, were "aggressively targeted" for subprime mortgages. According to a Center for Responsible Lending analysis of 2006 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, 22 percent of subprime mortgage loans went to white borrowers while 52 percent were made to African Americans and 41 percent to Hispanics. In a different study, the Center found African American and Latino borrowers were 30 percent more likely than whites to receive high-rate, subprime loans, even when taking into account individual credit risk. These disparities have subsequently contributed to racial disparities in foreclosures. A San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank study of housing loans in California metropolitan areas established that African-American borrowers were 3.3 times, Latino borrowers 2.5 times, and Asian borrowers 1.6 times likelier than white counterparts to be in foreclosure. Minorities may also be subject to fraud and discrimination when trying to refinance or modify a mortgage loan.

In response, HUD takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing these problems. HUD and Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies investigate and resolve complaints received from persons who believe they have experienced discrimination. Recently, the Department launched several investigations of lenders based on HMDA reporting. In October 2009, HUD's National Fair Housing Training Academy launched an educational program for housing counselors and consumers on home buying, mortgage lending, and how to avoid becoming a victim of mortgage rescue scams. Each year, HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program provides grants to public, private, and nonprofit groups to raise awareness and to conduct fair housing enforcement, education, and outreach activities. HUD also runs Access First, which trains architects, developers, and others who design and build multifamily housing on how to create structures that comply with disability rights laws.

Policy Recommendations

The Department has taken steps to ensure that its programs and activities do not discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals on the basis of source of income. As of June 2010, HUD requires funding applicants to show they have not been charged with violating state or local law proscribing discrimination in housing based on source of income, or have satisfactorily resolved any such charge, before becoming eligible to receive HUD funds. When conducting their programs and activities, successful applicants and their subrecipients must comply with state and local laws forbidding discrimination in housing based on source of income. These actions have significant ramifications for low-income tenants who use Social Security, voucher, or other such means to pay their rent.

In October 2009, HUD instated measures to ensure that its housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. These measures make it a condition of eligibility that applicants subscribe to state and local laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when conducting their programs and activities. HUD plans to propose new regulations to clarify that the term "family," as used to describe eligible beneficiaries of HUD programs, includes eligible lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and couples. In addition, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will instruct its lending community that FHA-insured mortgage loans must be based on the creditworthiness of borrowers, and not on unrelated factors or characteristics such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

HUD will also enhance its customer service to members of the public who report housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Although federal law currently does not prohibit discrimination on these bases, HUD staff will ensure these complaints are directed to the appropriate state and local offices if the incident occurred in a state or locality that has a law prohibiting such discrimination. And HUD personnel will be alert to housing discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation or gender identity that also allege other violations under the Fair Housing Act.

Finally, in order to strengthen these protections, HUD is recommending that the Fair Housing Act be amended to prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

bulletReport and the Press Release

bulletAbout Fair Housing/Equal Opportunity




Profiling U.S. Housing and Households

The American Housing Survey (AHS) updates the profile of the nation's housing stock and households biennially and in select metropolitan areas every 4 to 6 years. The AHS has surveyed a representative sample of renters and homeowners about their households, income, expenses, financing, housing characteristics and conditions, neighborhood quality, and the overall availability of affordable housing since 1973. Professionals use the survey findings for planning, decisionmaking, market research, and program development.

The 2009 survey results report that the nation's housing inventory now surpasses 130 million units. All but 14 percent are occupied. Most of the units (68.8%) are single-family structures; the rest are multifamily and manufactured homes. Single-family detached homes are the most common. The median size floor plan is 1,700 square feet, and the majority of homes have 4 to 6 rooms, 3 or more bedrooms, and at least one bathroom. Overall, U.S. housing is relatively new — over one-half of American homes are less than 35 years old, but 7 percent have proven to be extremely durable, having been built in 1919 or earlier.

A pie chart showing housing stock in 2009 by type.

Condition. Most homes are in good condition, but not without problems. The most common deficiencies are interior cracks or holes in walls, broken plaster, peeling paint, holes in floors, and rooms without electrical outlets. Among the most severe physical problems experienced in homes are plumbing issues such as leaky pipes and backed up or overflowing fixtures. Exterior leakage problems most often involve roofs and basements.

Location. Three-fourths of the nation's housing is located within metropolitan areas; of these, 60 percent are in suburbia and 40 percent are in central cities. Regionally, the South has the largest percentage of residences (37.9%) and the Northeast has the smallest (17.9%).

Cost. Overall, households spend approximately 23 percent of their income on housing. Median monthly housing costs vary across regions (see graph) but generally require a higher proportion of household income for renters (31.3%) than for homeowners (21.7%) The actual median housing cost for renters (contract rent, property insurance, and utilities) is $784 per month. For owners, the median monthly cost of $1,051 includes mortgage payments, property insurance, real estate taxes, fees (association, condominium, or cooperative), park fees for manufactured homes, land rents, routine maintenance, and utilities.

A bar graph showing Regional Median Monthly Housing Cost in 2009.

Recession Impact. The recent dramatic rise in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures and the concurrent economic recession have greatly affected households and their homes. The proportion of homeowners with underwater mortgages (that is, those whose mortgage value exceeds their home value) increased to 16 percent of survey respondents in 2009 m-dash  up 8.4 percentage points from 2007. In addition, 62.1 percent of homeowners thought their property value had dropped over this 2-year period. The housing market downturn and recession have also reduced the percentage of movers from 26.3 percent in 2007 to 24.3 percent in 2009. In 2009, approximately one-third of recent movers changed housing type, with 16.6 percent of renters stating that they were previously homeowners, up from 14.1 percent in 2007.

The Residents. The average household consists of 2.5 people. Seventeen percent of households have a member with a disability. Householders' median age is 48 (owners 52 and renters 39), with a median income of $47,000. Eighty-six percent of householders have a high school education or more. One out of three homeowners has a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with only one of every five renters. Similarly, the median income of owners ($60,000) exceeds that of renters ($28,400).

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research and the Census Bureau both provide access to current and historical AHS data. In 2009, supplemental samples were added to provide metropolitan estimates for Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and Northern New Jersey. Separate surveys of the New Orleans and Seattle metropolitan areas were also completed in 2009.

bulletSee Housing in America: 2009 American Housing Survey Results for more.



First Post-Katrina American Housing Survey of Metropolitan New Orleans

"While fewer families remain in transition, we're seeing significant increases in the cost of housing, especially for lower and middle-income renters."
—  Dr. Raphael Bostic, HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research

Fischer Public Housing built after Hurricane Katrina. Since 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans metropolitan area has lost 75,000 housing units, or nearly 13 percent of its housing stock. That same timeframe has seen the median monthly cost of housing rose by nearly one-third. These are among the key findings of the 2009 New Orleans Metropolitan Area Housing Survey, the most comprehensive analysis of the area's housing stock since 2004. The survey, based on in-depth interviews with residents of approximately 3,000 housing units, provides a critical point of comparison and offers a detailed progress report on redevelopment of the area, which includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany Parishes.

Key findings in the 2009 New Orleans Metropolitan Area Housing Survey highlight the composition of the housing stock, housing damage, mobility effects of Katrina, and monthly housing costs.

Housing Stock

In 2009, the New Orleans metro area had 512,000 residential housing units, compared with 587,000 units in 2004. This 13-percent decline is largely explained by demolition activity, particularly of older, single-family attached homes built before 1979. In addition, the metro area saw approximately 24,700 new homes constructed between 2004 and 2009. With the loss of many older homes and the addition of newly built units, the median year of construction of the area's housing stock is currently 1972, compared with a median of 1960 prior to Hurricane Katrina. HUD's 2009 survey also indicates that an estimated 72,500 housing units are vacant in the New Orleans metro area.

Housing Damage

Of the 252,000 owner-occupied housing units that sustained damage during Hurricane Katrina, 90 percent have undergone repair through private insurance payouts, federal flood insurance, or homeowner assistance grants provided through Louisiana's HUD-funded Road Home program. More than 52 percent of owners of damaged units reoccupied their homes, whereas only 25 percent of homeowners reoccupied their severely damaged units. More than 18,000 area homeowners have elevated, or intend to elevate, their homes.

Mobility Effects

Hurricane Katrina forced more than 307,000 households to move from their homes and share housing with others, primarily family and friends. Since Katrina, almost 59,000 families have moved once, 95,000 families have moved twice, 77,000 families have moved three times, and more than 68,000 households have moved as many as 10 times. In 2009, more than 38,000 families still considered themselves in transition.

Monthly Housing Costs

The median monthly cost of housing in the New Orleans metro area was $882 in 2009, compared with $662 in 2004 (in 2009 dollars), a jump of 33.2 percent. Although the cost of both owner- and renter-occupied units significantly increased, this trend is largely attributed to the decline of mid-priced units ($300 to $600 monthly) from 66,300 in 2004 to just 19,300 in 2009. The median rent charged to New Orleans-area tenants was $689 in 2004, compared with $876 in 2009, an increase of 27 percent. The total number of renter households declined by 32,000 from 2004 to 2009, whereas the number of worst-case-needs renter households grew by nearly 6,500, or 22 percent. "Worst case needs" refers to very low-income, unassisted renter households who paid more than half their income on rent, lived in severely inadequate housing, or both.

The Census Bureau expects to release a comprehensive narrative report on these data later this fall. In addition, HUD and the Census Bureau will conduct yet another survey in the New Orleans metropolitan area in 2011 to gain further insight into the area's housing recovery since 2009.

bulletPress releasecell background
bulletPreliminary Findings, 2009 New Orleans Metropolitan Survey, PowerPoint presentation
bulletData in SAS and ASCII formats
bulletWorst Case Housing Needs 2007: A Report to Congress, PD&R




Visualizing Housing Information

Reflecting activity in the nation's housing and urban markets, HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research offers a Thematic Map Tool featuring four interactive maps of housing information. The maps display easy-to-access information used by housing researchers, city planners, industry professionals, public housing authorities, and those seeking Section 8 housing qualifications. Each user-friendly map includes color-coding, zoom features, and a "tooltip" that displays a callout box on mouseover, containing the selected area's name and map-specific data.

The Median Household Income map lists the area median income (AMI) for any county in the nation. Selecting the desired area, the user is provided with a tooltip containing the name of the county, its median income for a family of four, and the qualifying income limits for very low-, extremely low-, and low-income families. The estimates, based on FY 2010 income limits, are calculated for all metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in the United States and its territories. Public housing authorities, nonprofit developers, and housing researchers will find these data especially helpful as a quick reference for the most recent AMIs and income limits.

The Building Permits map displays the number of permits for single- and multifamily residential construction issued by about 21,000 jurisdictions in 2010. The information is extracted from HUD USER's State of the Cities Data Systems, which contains multiple databases covering metropolitan areas, central cities, and suburbs. The map not only provides developers, researchers, and other professionals with immediate access to building permit data, but it also serves as an entry point into a system containing historical census data, current employment statistics, county business patterns, Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data, urban public finance, and Comprehensive Housing Affordability data.

The Metropolitan Area Vacancy map(s) offer a regional or metropolitan statistical area perspective on residential and business vacancies using mail delivery data from the U.S. Postal Service. Through a special agreement with the U.S. Postal Service, HUD receives quarterly Address Management System extracts of the number of addresses identified by mail carriers as vacant or inactive and compiles these data to the census tract level.

The Housing Problems of Low Income Households map displays the percentage of families in counties that earn less than 50 percent of the AMI and reside in substandard conditions (housing units lacking a kitchen or plumbing), overcrowded dwellings (those with more than one person per room), or that face housing cost burdens (families paying more than 30 percent of gross income toward housing). A household that has more than one of these problems is considered to have housing problems. These maps are derived from HUD's Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy data, which local governments use for residential planning as part of the Consolidated Planning process.


Interactive map on HUD USER

bulletSee HUD USER Map Gallery for housing trends on post-Hurricane Katrina Gulf Coast.





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