Clinton Administration Provides Leadership in FHEO, But Five Key Reality Questions Remain

The year of 1994 has begun with Fair Housing receiving long-awaited attention from the Federal Government.

President Clinton issued an executive order on January 17 affirmatively furthering the goals of Fair Housing. This was accompanied by a memorandum for the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, which established a new Cabinet-level organization, and the Fair Housing Council, to focus the cooperative efforts of all agencies on fair housing. The President also directed Secretary Cisneros and the Fair Housing Council to develop a pilot program to be implemented in selected cities. This initiative would help inner city families to move to suburban areas. This program would also include transportation, educational and social service aspects, all directed toward reducing residential segregation and expanding housing choices.

The President also directed Secretary Cisneros to develop a memorandum of agreement among the agencies that regulate lenders in the United States. Included will be the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The purpose of this initiative would be to direct regulators to take affirmative steps toward furthering the goals of fair housing.

Roberta Achtenberg, newly named Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, indicated at the National Fair Housing Summit that the Department was taking a pro-active position on enforcing fair housing. Citing studies completed by the Department indicating that minorities face extreme levels of housing discrimination, Achtenberg said, "No more talk more paper pushing ...we are taking ACTION."

Achtenberg acknowledged the important role that private non-profit fair housing groups have played in maintaining a vision of fair housing for the nation.

She also acknowledged the .important role that HUD professionals had played in sustaining the fair housing enforcement work over great odds during past administrations.

Dr. Dennis W. Keating, a participant in the recent National Fair Housing Summit, returned to Cleveland State University and had some thoughts about whether the rhetoric of the new administration will in fact become a reality. Keating thinks there are five key questions regarding FHEO and the goal of promoting fair housing:

  1. Can HUD obtain the active cooperation of other federal agencies (e.g., the Justice Department and the lending regulatory agencies);
  2. can FHEO gain the necessary support within HUD itself;
  3. will HUD go after local governments with longstanding histories of segregated housing, including large cities and the suburbs;
  4. will the Clinton administration and Congress support race conscious approaches to promoting expanded racial diversity in housing, and
  5. will the private sector industries like real estate, banking and insurance really cooperate with the federal government to more vigorously enforce anti-discrimination policies and, if not, what will HUD do?

From the March Metro Eye, of the Cleveland Metropolitan Strategy Group, excerpts printed with permission.