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April Is Fair Housing Month, Focus Is on Harassment

Saturday, April 11, marks the Fair Housing Act’s 52nd anniversary. Now, more than ever, it’s time to reflect why “we the people” must advance together as one nation.

WASHINGTON – In April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) observes Fair Housing Month. The theme for the 2020 commemoration is Call HUD: Because Sexual Harassment in Housing is Illegal.

HUD says that theme serves a dual purpose: First, it’s a public awareness campaign that urges sexual harassment victims to “Call HUD” for help. Second, it reflects the Department’s continuing efforts to combat this and other forms of discrimination.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) joins HUD every April in commemorating Fair Housing Month, though the COVID-19 pandemic puts an unusual spin on it for 2020.

“Why think about fair housing in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis?” NAR asks in a release.

“Now, more than ever, is precisely the time to reflect on why the people of this country must advance together, as one nation. We cannot defeat coronavirus without foregoing our individual preferences and putting the health of the community first. And when the best public health advice is to stay in our homes, we are all at risk when the vulnerable among us confront the prospect of losing the roof over their heads.”

Many Americans lost jobs as the pandemic grew, notably those in the low-wage and service industries. In many cases, they have nothing to fall back on.

“Many face increased threats of evictions or foreclosures,” NAR says. “Some face xenophobic threats or violence. Many must take on increased unpaid caregiving work and have difficulty accessing necessary services. As community leaders, Realtors must ensure that we ease these burdens and move forward together.”

HUD says this year’s specific theme “focuses on protecting individuals from harassment by property owners, managers, maintenance workers or other residents, and helps to educate the public about what behaviors and actions constitute sexual harassment and what resources HUD offers to those that experience harassment.”

“This theme, which is a call to action, is an appeal to those who experience discrimination, particularly survivors of sexual harassment, to contact HUD for help,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Much work remains to be done, but HUD’s efforts in this area are already producing real results for real people.”

“Even as the nation is dealing with a health crisis unlike any we have experienced in recent history, HUD is open for business and working to ensure that no one has to tolerate harassment or unwanted sexual advances in the place they call home,” adds HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Anna María Farías.

This year, throughout the month of April, the “Humans of HUD” photoblog will feature stories from victims of sexual harassment in housing, highlighting the personal testimonies of survivors and those who helped them. FHEO will also be promoting its popular “Real People. Real Results.” (RPRR) series, which highlights the fair housing efforts of extraordinary people around the country. Every week in April, HUD will feature a fair housing hero who combats sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in housing.

Every year, HUD and its fair housing partner organizations pursue enforcement actions, work to enhance the public’s awareness of their housing rights and emphasize the importance of ending housing discrimination. Last year, the Department charged Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform. Overall in 2019, HUD and its partner agencies settled more than 600 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Fair Housing Act’s seven protected classes.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Realtors are community leaders who work to expand homeownership, build thriving neighborhoods, and uphold the highest ethical standards, NAR says, urging Realtors to continue to be those kinds of leaders in April and beyond.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®