Acting Attorney General Announces Results of Operation Home Sweet Home
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced the results of Operation Home Sweet Home, the Attorney General’s initiative to expose housing discrimination in America. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Department conducted a record number of undercover housing discrimination investigations, filed 30 lawsuits alleging unlawful housing discrimination, and obtained settlements and judgments requiring the payment of over $5 million in monetary damages to victims of discrimination and civil penalties.
As a result of Operation Home Sweet Home, the Civil Rights Division filed the first testing case ever, United States v. Pine Properties, alleging housing discrimination towards Asian American prospective tenants in Lowell, Mass. Litigation is ongoing.
“The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section exceeded even our lofty expectations,” stated Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler at the Civil Rights Division awards ceremony yesterday. “In fiscal year 2007, there was an all-time high number of paired testings, nearly double the number of the prior year.”
In fact, the number of tests was over 20 percent higher than the number conducted in any other year. In addition, the Division took significant steps to increase the effectiveness of these investigations. For example, it concentrated testing in areas that federal data showed to have experienced a significant volume of bias-related crimes, such as cross burnings or assaults on minorities. Additionally, the Division sought to improve its testing targets by increasing its outreach to local fair housing organizations.
Operation Home Sweet Home was initiated in February 2006. The initiative was inspired by the plight of large numbers of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina, many of them minorities, who were seeking new housing. Operation Home Sweet Home, however, was not limited to the areas affected by Katrina, but was nationwide in scope because all Americans should be able to buy or rent a home without suffering illegal discrimination.
Since 1991, the Civil Rights Division has operated a testing program dedicated to pro-actively uncovering housing discrimination. The program is conducted primarily through paired tests, an event in which two individuals—one acting as the “control group” (e.g., white male) and the other as the “test group” (e.g., black male) —pose as prospective buyers or renters of real estate for the purpose of determining whether a housing provider is complying with the fair housing laws.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination remains a top priority of the Justice Department. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call our Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7793), e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Civil Rights Division has filed 240 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act. More information about the Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.
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