Rep. Waters Joins Housing Experts to Discuss Foreclosure Crisis & Need for Stronger Fair Housing Enforcement

Media 09.9,08

LOS ANGELES – In the wake of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac takeover, Representative Maxine Waters, National Fair Housing Alliance President Shanna Smith, Howard University School of Law Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Okianer Christian Dark, and the immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors, Pat Combs, held a call with reporters to discuss the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which met in Los Angeles today.

The Commission, co-chaired by former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros, was formed to assess the state of fair housing in America 40 years after passage of the landmark Fair Housing Act. 

In addition to the foreclosure crisis, the Commission is investigating the effects of segregated housing patterns on education, the impact of urban revitalization, and federal enforcement of existing fair housing laws.

“Housing is one of the most vital aspects of our economy, as we can see by the devastating effect that foreclosures have had on our communities,” said Rep.Waters. 

Today’s hearing in Los Angeles exposed the far-reaching effects of predatory and sub-prime lending on the housing market and foreclosure rates.  Experts and witnesses also testified to the link between predatory lending and racial discrimination. 

“Discrimination is clearly at work here, and that is why I believe our country needs serious enforcement of our nation’s fair housing laws.  Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and its amendments in 1988 to root out discrimination and create integrated communities.  But we are not there yet,” said Rep. Waters.

The Commission’s findings and recommendations to strengthen housing laws will be part of a comprehensive report to be released in December.

The bipartisan commission – hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the National Fair Housing Alliance – will hold hearings in Boston and Atlanta in the coming weeks.

In addition to co-chairs Henry Cisneros and Jack Kemp, the National Commission includes Pat Combs, immediate past President of the National Association of Realtors; Okianer Christian Dark, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Howard University College of Law; I. King Jordan, President-Emeritus of Gallaudet University; Myron Orfield, Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Law; and Gordon Quan, former Mayor Pro Tem and Chair of the Housing Committee for the City of Houston.


“With the recent unprecedented takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, American homeowners are likely to feel even more insecure about the housing market. It is absolutely essential that we as a nation address the issue of fair housing in America, and ensure that all families have the right to live where they choose, in dignity and without fear of discrimination.”
– Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President Wade Henderson

“Since the Fair Housing Act was passed forty years ago, the level of residential segregation has, if anything, gotten worse. The Commission hearings will help in seeking ways to change this troubling situation.”
– Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine

“We are thrilled the Commission will examine how fair housing principles can build strong, diverse communities.  This discussion is particularly important in Los Angeles, where its varied populations are still residentially segregated.”
– NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. President and Director-Counsel John Payton

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inconsistent standards and meager investigative and enforcement efforts have facilitated continued patterns of residential segregation based on race and ethnicity.  In California and throughout our country, HUD’s failure to adequately enforce the Fair Housing Act only hinders our nation from achieving balanced and integrated living patterns as intended under the law.”
– National Fair Housing Alliance President Shanna Smith