The Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress 45 years ago, but now the federal government is looking to give it a new boost. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced a new program that will encourage racial and ethnic integration in certain neighborhoods. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says the program will use Census data to create interactive maps that allow specific areas to be targeted for better integration. The idea, according to HUD, is to "expand access to higher opportunity neighborhoods" and find "investment possibilities in under-served communities." The agency has also published a new rule that requires all government agencies receiving HUD funds to "affirmatively further" integration of minorities into certain neighborhoods.
Daniel Bustamante, executive director of the Greater Houston Fair Housing Center, says fair housing is an issue that is still a huge problem in America. "Unfortunately, studies still reflect about four million incidents of housing discrimination a year," he tells KTRH. Furthermore, that discrimination often goes beyond race and ethnicity. "A great portion of the complaints we see are people with disabilities and families with children that cross all racial and ethnic barriers," says Bustamante.
For Bustamante, housing integration isn't about quotas or sociological experiments, but simple fairness. "People have a right to live where they can afford," he says. "That is so important because where you live determines what schools you go to, where you work, where you worship, where you shop." Secretary Donovan recently said this new HUD program is about making sure the American Dream is within equal reach of all communities. Bustamante sees it in even simpler terms. "Fair Housing essentially means that we don't live in a segregated society," he says.