EDITORIAL: Fair Housing Still a Pipe Dream

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at the National Press Club in Northwest D.C. on Oct. 9. Photo by Nancy Shia
Ben Carson (Photo by Nancy Shia)

On the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act on April 12, HUD Secretary Ben Carson delivered an impassioned speech to his employees in Washington, D.C. about fairness in the U.S.

“Fairness is not a partisan issue,” he said. “It’s an American issue.”

Carson went on to praise the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who died for the cause of civil rights, including the right to decent and affordable housing, and he urged that Dr. King’s struggle was about fairness.

Carson also reflected on his childhood in Detroit and shared how his family, like so many other Black families, was “denied access to decent rental housing and concentrated into slums, lacking decent schools and jobs” due to redlining. The Fair Housing Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson just four days after Dr. King’s assassination, provided hope for fairness and the end of discrimination, Carson said, suggesting that “fair housing is now the American way.”

But Carson sees fair housing issues differently than civil rights and affordable housing advocates experience it. While his remarks were laser-focused on fairness, Jeffrey W. Hicks, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, said Black homeownership stands exactly where it did 50 years ago. Black homeowners, he urged in a recent press release, continue to be disproportionately impacted by “the economic downturn of a decade ago” leaving “Black homeowners with high foreclosures, upside-down mortgages and financial upheaval from which many are still struggling to recover.”

Others believe the nation is immersed in the worst housing crisis since the FHA was passed. Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who co-sponsored the Fair Housing Act along with Senator Edward Brooke, argued in a recent interview, “There’s been a struggle to get the Fair Housing Act recognized as real law and enforce it at the state and local level.” I would say we haven’t done very well at it. I think it has made significant progress possible in America but we’re not there yet.”

Carson’s message of fairness, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a far cry from the HUD policies and the oversight needed to eradicate the nation’s housing crisis. Exorbitant housing costs, increased evictions and a staggering rate of homelessness, is far from fair, Mr. Carson. Just ask the millions of Americans desperately trying to find safe, accessible and affordable housing.

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