Congress hears National Neighbors' call for fairness in fair housing funding

Special to the Advocate from National Neighbors

National Neighbors Inc., the oldest national Fair Housing organization in the US, has successfully led a campaign to change language limiting funding opportunities in the 1997 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Appropriations Bill. The proposed eligibility language contained within the Bill limited Education/Outreach funding to housing organizations that had two, or more, years of enforcement and testing activities regardless of their outreach effectiveness or experience. National Neighbors advocated for equal access to Education/Outreach dollars by all qualified organizations regardless to inclusion of an enforcement agenda. On September 24, 1996, a bipartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Housing Appropriations completely removed the restrictions. On September 26, 1996, President Clinton signed the Appropriations Bill into Public Law #104-204. The decisive response to the National Neighbors appeal results in equality of funding opportunities for local and national organizations.

National Neighbors, Inc. is a non-profit, civil rights organization that promotes racial and cultural equality by increasing multicultural dialogue and access, influencing public policy, and developing national models that support community development through the Fair Housing, Fair Lending, and Civil Rights Laws. National Neighbors was concerned to learn that an attempt had been made to restrict funding opportunities to organizations designated as qualified Fair Housing organizations (QFHOs) only. This limitation would have severely obstructed the stellar work of many other organizations who strive to guarantee open access to housing and lending in communities across the nation but who are not involved in enforcement or fell short of the 2 year requirement to be designated as QFHOs.

Stella Adams of the North Carolina Fair Housing Center says, "I'm glad to know that we'll be able to apply for funds on our own [without a sponsor] this year and that other agencies in our state will be able to apply for funding as well. Last year we worked closely with two other agencies that were not eligible for funding: Elizabeth City State University and the Center for Universal Design. The work that they do is extremely important and their work allows us to focus on other areas; it is important that they be able to continue on their own."

Gail Burks of the Nevada Fair Housing Center agrees that the removal of the eligibility restrictions will allow organizations such as the John Marshall Law School to continue providing essential training on Fair Housing and Lending, which allows enforcement groups to pursue their own work without dividing their effectiveness.

Edythe Flemings Hall, Executive Director of National Neighbors, Inc., states that National Neighbors supports expanding the funding of both enforcement and education/outreach. She notes that both are necessary and important components of government's responsibility to ensure that all actors in residential related transactions comply with the tenants of the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Lending laws. Ms. Hall states "this legislative success is an example of good bipartisan government working on behalf of all people."

To contact National Neighbors, write them at:

National Neighbors
733 15th Street NW, Suite 540
Washington, DC 20005-2112
Phone: 202-628-8899
Fax: 202-628-9801
e-mail: natlnbrs@essential.org