Fighting for fair housing


More than 50 years ago, we passed the Fair Housing Act, and a series of other fair housing and fair lending laws, to outlaw discrimination, promote integrated communities, and provide powerful tools to root out discrimination and invest in communities of color.

But parts of the Fair Housing Act were never fully implemented, and we’re still living with the legacy of Jim Crow and redlining. Access to housing remains not just unequal, but separate and unequal. And President Trump and his administration have made things worse, not better, at a time when people — and disproportionately people of color — are struggling more than ever to keep a roof over their heads and pay the bills.

Our office recently released a report detailing how, for four years now, President Trump and his administration have systematically undermined fair housing in this country.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Banking and Housing Committee, our committee looked in detail at all of the ways President Trump and his administration have made it harder for Black and brown Ohioans to afford a home without crippling stress every month, to choose where they live, and to build wealth they can pass on to their kids through homeownership.

President Trump and the wealthy friends he’s appointed have rewritten the rules to prevent victims of housing discrimination from seeking justice, tried to hide the problem by gutting publicly available housing data, allowed our tax dollars to perpetuate segregation, targeted immigrants and the LGBTQ community, and tried to make it harder for people of color to buy a home.

We must work to undo the damage the president’s administration has done, help families get through this pandemic, and build a stronger, more equitable housing system for the future.

We can start helping families by passing emergency rental assistance, to help people who have lost jobs because of the president’s failures on the pandemic stay in their homes, and prevent them from turning to credit cards and payday lenders.

But getting people through this crisis is really the bare minimum — we have to restore the Fair Housing Act to its full strength.

This means providing tools to help communities create more inclusive housing markets. It means rooting out both explicit and hidden discrimination in lending, when families try to get a mortgage. And it means strengthening fair housing oversite, so that no person is locked out of housing because of their skin color, or their family, or whether they have a disability.

We need to break down barriers to homeownership and redesign our housing finance system so that it better serves Black and brown communities.

And we need to actually invest in housing and community development in communities of color.

This report provides a roadmap to both undo the damage Trump and his administration have done, and to build something better on the other side.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown

Guest Columnist

Sherrod Brown is a U.S. senator, representing Ohio. You may contact him at his office in Cleveland, 801 W. Superior Ave., Suite 1400, Cleveland, OH 44113. You may call his office at 216-522-7272 or 1-888-896-6446.

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