Because of a typographical error, two dates were incorrectly reported in yesterday's editions. In 1974, the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted 50 community-wide investigations to determine whether local patterns and practices in the housing market contribute to housing discrimination, and has conducted only one since that year. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Picture, Commission chairman Arthur S. Flemming discusses housing report findings as member Cynthia Graae listens. By Frank Johnston-The Washington Post
Housing discrimination is still prevalent in the United States because the federal government has failed to enforce equal housing laws, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
In some cases, federal agencies have been guilty of practicing the discrimination they were supposed to help prevent, the report said.
For example, of the 2,460 direct mortgage loans administered by the Veterans Administration in 1976, blacks received 45, or about 1.8 percent, and Hispanics received 24, about 1 percent, the report said.
There also is "evidence from a variety of sources" showing that the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) is financing segregated rural housing development projects, according to the report.
One of those sources, the Department of Agriculture, supplied figures in the report showing that blacks and Hispanics have been receiving a declining share of FmHA rural housing loans since 1972. That year, blacks received 19.6 percent of the FmHA loans, and Hispanics 3.6 percent. In 1977, the percentages were 9.3 for blacks and 2.4 for Hispanics.
"the federal government has contributed to, subsidized and abetted discriminatory housing practices," said Baltimore Rabbi Murray Saltzman, a commission member.
"there are discriminatory practices remaining within the federal agencies . . . The government's failure to address the problem of decent housing is a national disgrace."
The 235-page report was released on the 11th anniversary of the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national orgin in the sale of rental of most housing. The report is based on a study of federal fair housing efforts from January 1975 through August 1978.
"The report . . . makes clear that the federal government must accept most of the blame for the lack of progress in this major civil rights area," said commission Chairman Arthur S. Flemming. "The executive branch has not mounted an all-out, vigorous enforcement program and Congress has not corrected the weaknesses in the Fair Housing Act."
Responsibility for administration of the Fair Housing Act rests with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and therein lies one of the act's key weaknesses, according to the report.
HUD has not even issued regulations defining "prohibited" discriminatory housing practices by lenders, real estate brokers, appraisers, local government and "other entities or organizations and "other entities or organizations which affect the availablity and supply of housing."
Since 1954, HUD has conducted only one communitywide investigation to determine whether local patterns and practices in the housing market contribute to housing discrimination. HUD conducted 50 such investigations in 1950.
HUD's lack of enforcement power under the Fair Housing Act has made it difficult for the agency to protect anyone's housing rights under that law.
"When HUD finds discrimination and attempts to concilliate a resolution, the department is successful only about half the time," the report said.
HUD Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris, who, like other department officials, was given a preview of the report, said in a letter to the commission last month that she agreed with most of its findings, but not with its overall implications.