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Reconstructing Fair Housing

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November 6, 2001

This report is also available in alternative formats and on NCD's award-winning Web site (

The views contained in the report do not necessarily represent those off the administration, as this document has not been subjected to the A-19 executive branch review process.

Letter of Transmittal

November 6, 2001

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am pleased to submit a report titled Reconstructing Fair Housing. This report is the fifth in a series of independent analyses by NCD of federal enforcement of civil rights laws.

The series grew out of NCD's 1996 national policy summit, which was attended by more than 300 disability community leaders from diverse backgrounds who called upon NCD to work with federal agencies to develop strategies for greater enforcement of existing disability civil rights laws. In March 1999, NCD produced its first report, Enforcing the Civil Rights of Air Travelers with Disabilities. The second report, Back to School on Civil Rights, on the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, was issued in January 2000. In June 2000, NCD produced its third report, titled Promises To Keep: A Decade of Federal Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The fourth report, The Accessible Future, on the status of enforcement of various federal laws dealing with electronic and information technology accessibility, was issued in June 2001. The enforcement reports to follow in this series will be on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

Reconstructing Fair Housing looks at the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) and Section 504 as they relate to one key federal agency, namely, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). NCD's findings reveal that while the past several Administrations have asserted their support for the civil rights of people with disabilities, the federal agency charged with enforcement and policy development under the FHAA and Section 504 has been underfunded, understaffed, and lacking any consistent strategy and direction.

We recognize that your Administration is committed to eradicating fair housing discrimination and removing barriers to community living for people with disabilities. In a number of instances, you have indicated your commitment to Americans with disabilities. That commitment is articulated in your New Freedom Initiative; in the mandate you issued under Executive Order No. 13217, establishing an Interagency Council on Community Living; and, in the work of your Fair Housing Council.

As HUD Secretary Mel Martinez and Attorney General John Ashcroft stated so eloquently on April 11, 2001 (the 33rd anniversary of the Fair Housing Act): "Discrimination in housing simply will not be tolerated, and we will prosecute those who violate the Fair Housing Act." And in signing their pledge as members of the Fair Housing Council, they indicated, "As members of the President's Fair Housing Council established by Executive Order 12892, we pledge to administer the programs of our Department or Agency in support of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 as amended in 1988 and aggressively fight to end housing discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap."

Reconstructing Fair Housing responds to the commitments of your Administration, as listed above, by providing a roadmap for addressing the shortcomings that have hampered FHAA and Section 504 compliance and enforcement until now. NCD is prepared to work with HUD and other stakeholders inside and outside the government to develop that strategy.

NCD stands ready to work on those and related matters.


Marca Bristo

(This same letter of transmittal was sent to the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

National Council on Disability Members and Staff

Marca Bristo, Chairperson
Hughey Walker, First Vice Chairperson
Kate Pew Wolters, Second Vice Chairperson

Yerker Andersson, Ph.D.
Dave N. Brown
Edward Correia
John D. Kemp
Audrey McCrimon
Gina McDonald
Bonnie O'Day, Ph.D.
Lilliam Rangel-Diaz
Debra Robinson
Gerald S. Segal
Ela Yazzie-King

Ethel D. Briggs, Executive Director
Jeffrey T. Rosen, General Counsel and Director of Policy
Mark S. Quigley, Director of Communications
Kathleen A. Blank, Attorney/Advisor
Gerrie Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Program Specialist
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Research Specialist
Pamela O'Leary, Interpreter
Allan W. Holland, Accountant Officer
Brenda Bratton, Executive Assistant
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant
Carla Nelson, Office Assistant
Edward J. Heaton, Fellow


This report is the product of a team effort and incorporates the work of several people. First and foremost, the research and interviews were conducted and a report to the National Council on Disability (NCD) prepared--through a contract with the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law--by Sara Pratt, Michael Allen, and Bonnie Milstein.

NCD would also like to thank the people who gave of their time and agreed to participate in the development of this report. Special acknowledgment goes to the many staff members of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development who not only answered many questions but gathered documents and shared voluminous data with the research team. In addition, they reviewed and commented on preliminary drafts of the contents of this document for technical accuracy.