WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez used the 35th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act as a backdrop to the agency’s unveiling of a new multimedia, cutting edge campaign designed to fight housing discrimination. The print and broadcast campaign debuted on April 29. The Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1968, was signed in to law by President Lyndon Johnson in April 1968, one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The legislation prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Amendments to the Act added in 1988 extended its coverage to prohibit discrimination based on disability or familial status. The public service ads were produced by New York-based advertising agency Merkley Newman Harty in partnership with The Advertising Council, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, and the National Fair Housing Alliance. By showing the many faces of housing discrimination such as minorities, a Hasidic Jew, a disabled person and a single mother, the ads are intended to raise public awareness of federal law prohibiting discrimination and to encourage victims and witnesses to report acts of housing bias. Viewers are directed to HUD’s toll-free hotline – (800) 669-9777 – to report suspected cases of housing discrimination. “Thirty-five years after this important civil rights legislation, it is important to remember that fair housing isn’t optional. It is right,” said Martinez, speaking to an annual conference of fair housing professionals meeting in Atlanta and hosted by HUD. “These print and broadcast public service announcements are a powerful demonstration that it is not only wrong to discriminate in housing, it is against the law,” he said. Last year, HUD released a study Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets that showed that while housing discrimination has been significantly reduced, it remains pervasive among certain racial and ethnic groups. Among the report’s findings, sales and rental discrimination against African-Americans and sales discrimination against Hispanics have declined since 1989. But rental discrimination against Hispanic families remains unchanged at about 25%. HUD says it has stepped up its enforcement of housing discrimination laws. When President Bush took office two years ago, the agency said about 85% of cases were considered “aged” or over 100 days old. By October 2002, it said that rate was reduced to 29%. Meanwhile backlogged cases among state and local HUD contractors dropped from 69 to 44%. In addition, President Bush has requested a 9% increase for HUD’s fair housing 2004 budget to nearly $50 million over 2003 funding. In another initiative taken by HUD to fight housing discrimination, the agency in early April announced a partnership with four real estate groups – The National Association of Asian American Real Estate Professionals (NAAAREP); The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP); The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB); and The National Association of RealtorsT (NAR) – to help eliminate housing discrimination. The group issued a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the specific steps each organization will take to help eliminate housing discrimination. President Bush also declared April 2003 as National Fair Housing Month. In his proclamation, the President recognized the “Fair Housing Act of 1968 has helped open doors of opportunity for countless families.” He also stated that, “Despite this progress, more work remains in our struggle to achieve equality and racial justice. Prejudiced and discriminatory practices in housing still exist in America.These practices are wrong. As a Nation, and as individuals, we must be vigilant in responding to discrimination wherever we find it and ensuring that minority families have access to housing.” -

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