Bipartisan Commission Brings Investigation of Housing Discrimination to Boston

Media 09.22,08

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the National Fair Housing Alliance

BOSTON – Today, as Americans read troubling headlines and struggle with the meaning of the nation’s historic financial crisis, fair housing experts and civil rights advocates convened in Boston to investigate the devastating effects of housing discrimination on education and employment opportunities.

This issue affects communities across the country, but is particularly visible in metropolitan Boston.  In recent years, the rapid growth of Latino and Asian communities in the city have revealed stark patterns of housing segregation, and even more disturbingly, highly segregated schools.

The hearing, convened by a bipartisan commission, drew housing advocates and residents from the local, regional, and national level to testify to the extent of illegal housing discrimination, its origins, its connection with government policy and practice, and its effect on communities in the region and across the nation.

“I believe it is a crucial component of this commission to consider our government’s role in the continuing state of housing inequality and the reforms necessary to ensure its vigorous enforcement of the law,” said the Honorable Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary. “I am proud to be part of this historic commission to examine the state of fair housing in our nation.”

The Commission has enjoyed strong support from the realtor community, which embraces its role in maintaining strong neighborhoods. “The Boston hearing outlines what needs to be done to increase public awareness about fair housing laws and the issues surrounding discrimination and assure that the housing market operates without discrimination,” said Pat V. Combs, immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors and a commissioner. “Realtors are community builders and play a vital role in advancing fair housing laws and helping ensure equal access to housing so that all Americans can achieve the dream of homeownership.”

Boston was the fourth city in a cross-country investigation into the state of housing in America in the wake of the nation’s financial turmoil.

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 be holding a final hearing in Atlanta on October 17. The commission findings and recommendations to strengthen housing laws will be part of a comprehensive report to be released in December.

A webcast of the hearing will stream live, in real time, at

In addition to co-chairs and former HUD Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Jack Kemp, the National Commission includes Pat Combs, former 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.  The Commission was also joined in Boston by guest commissioner, Massachusetts Undersecretary Tina Brooks.


“The opportunity to learn and grow starts at home and the foundation of that home must be sound – where we live can affect where we go to school, where we work, and too often, our access to opportunity. We owe it to our children to ensure that all kids have that strong foundation and access to a good education, something that they deserve and need to succeed.” – Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President Wade Henderson

“Our hearing in Boston is the fourth of five hearings held throughout the country.  The scope of the Commission’s hearing broadens and becomes more important as the financial crisis gripping the nation grows, a crisis that grew out of predatory, and often discriminatory, subprime mortgages.  Fair housing and fair lending experience in Boston will add to the expert record being developed by the Commission and will lead to important recommendations for addressing the problems documented in the final report to be released in December.” – Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine

“Forty years after passage of the Fair Housing Act, housing segregation remains at the core of our structural inequality.  In seeking solutions to promote a more integrated society, the Commission must address the prominent role that residential segregation plays in perpetuating inequality in education, employment and health care.”– NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. President and Director-Counsel John Payton

“The Fair Housing Act embodies the dual intent of Congress to eliminate housing discrimination and achieve integrated and balanced neighborhoods throughout the country.  Unfortunately, the failure of the administration to request sufficient funding and the failure of HUD and DOJ to effectively enforce the Fair Housing Act have effectively deterred our nation from achieving the promise of this powerful civil rights law.” – National Fair Housing Alliance President Shanna Smith