Bipartisan Housing Commission Investigates Effects of Housing Discrimination on Education and Employment

Media 09.22,08

BOSTON – In the midst of the nation’s historic financial crisis, former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros held a call with reporters to discuss the findings of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which met in Boston today. 

Mass. Housing Policy Chief Tina Brooks and civil rights advocate Barbara Arnwine also participated on the call, which focused on the devastating effects of housing discrimination on education and employment opportunities, and how fair housing laws must be enforced as the government moves toward a sweeping bailout plan for the financial market.

“The Commission is absolutely committed to this issue of fair housing, especially in light of the current economic crisis, which was spurred by irresponsible and predatory lending practices,” said Kemp.  “We don’t want this economic crisis to roll back the progress we have made in fair housing.  We can do better.  We must do better.  And the Commission is committed to making it possible for families from every background and economic standing to have the opportunity to realize the American dream.”

Experts and advocates who testified at today’s hearing in Boston exposed the far-reaching effects of housing discrimination and patterns of housing segregation on access to quality education and employment opportunity, and called for greater enforcement of fair housing laws to root out discrimination.

“Discrimination in the housing market has existed for years, but this morning, we heard a really heavy dose about how segregation is playing out in our communities,” said Cisneros.  “This is a very urgent mater, and as Congress considers the economic crisis this week, I hope that they consider fair housing laws.  Fair housing laws are absolutely essential to the housing market – if there is discrimination in the housing market then the market does not work.  Quality schools, good jobs, and a sound financial market all start with access to fair housing.”

The Commission, co-chaired by Secretaries Kemp and 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 effects of housing segregation on education and employment opportunities, the Commission is investigating the effects of the impact of urban revitalization, federal enforcement of existing fair housing laws, and the foreclosure crisis that is sweeping the country.

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

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.


“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

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