U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have led a letter urging Congress to provide full funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), which is run out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and helps Americans gain access to housing. FHIP is the only federal program that supports the work of qualified nonprofit fair housing organizations throughout the nation to educate the public and housing industry professionals and address housing discrimination. Under the Fair Housing Act, Congress directed HUD to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Providing FHIP with appropriate funding is crucial to ensuring HUD fulfills this important mandate.

The Senators write,“American families are significantly impacted by where they live. Where a family lives impacts their access to critical public services like health care and transportation, and can influence whether their children will have the opportunity to achieve in school, and to what extent a family will be able to benefit from public investments in their communities.It is incumbent upon all of us as members of the United States Senate to do all that we can to ensure that Americans have a real shot at housing opportunities of their choosing and to support the work of private fair housing organizations to address housing and lending discrimination across our great nation.”

They note,“FHIP is a small but highly effective program.HUD has recognized that cases referred by FHIP agencies are twice as likely to result in a settlement or charges of a violation, resulting in the opening of countless units of housing for every complaint of discrimination they receive from FHIP groups.”

The Senators closed the letter stating,“Given the demonstrated need to address housing discrimination and the value that the FHIP program provides, we urge the Subcommittee to provide $45 million in funding for FHIP in FY 2019. We must do all we can to maintain support for FHIP and continue to take on the important work of eliminating housing discrimination and maintaining housing opportunities available to every American.”

Senators Van Hollen and Booker were joined in signing the letter by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan, (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Van Hollen actively fights for Maryland interests and works to negotiate the details of each bill. He has teamed up with his colleagues to join and lead a series of letters on particular areas of interest.

The letter can be foundhereand below.

Dear Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Reed,

American families are significantly impacted by where they live. Where a family lives impacts their access to critical public services like health care and transportation, and can influence whether their children will have the opportunity to achieve in school, and to what extent a family will be able to benefit from public investments in their communities. It is incumbent upon all of us as members of the United States Senate to do all that we can to ensure that Americans have a real shot at housing opportunities of their choosing and to support the work of private fair housing organizations to address housing and lending discrimination across our great nation. As the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee works toward appropriating funds for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge your support for level funding of $45 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP).

FHIP is the only federal program that supports the work of qualified nonprofit fair housing organizations’ throughout the nation to educate the public and housing industry professionals, and address housing discrimination. Using FHIP’s Education and Outreach Initiatives (EOI) grant, FHIP grantees empower their communities to recognize discrimination by educating the public about their rights to housing choice free from discrimination. FHIP grantees also provide critical and relied-upon training to local housing providers, including real estate professionals, rental and leasing companies, and lenders about how to comply with the Fair Housing Act. Nonprofit organizations funded by Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grants are also the first line of contact for Americans who believe they have experienced housing discrimination. These groups investigate initial complaints of housing discrimination and investigate housing sites to determine the extent of any discrimination that may be occurring and assist individuals through the complaint process when there is evidence of discrimination.

FHIP is a small but highly effective program. HUD has recognized that cases referred by FHIP agencies are twice as likely to result in a settlement or charges of a violation, resulting in the opening of countless units of housing for every complaint of discrimination they receive from FHIP groups. Through early research and testing, FHIP enforcement grant recipients ensure that only instances of real housing discrimination are brought to HUD, local or state civil rights agencies that assist HUD, and the various court systems.

In FY 2017, HUD awarded FHIP grants to 150 nonprofit fair housing organizations that competed for the funds, supporting fair housing education and enforcement in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, existing resources do not come close to addressing the 4 million estimated annual incidents of housing discrimination that occur in our nation, especially in states that do not have a full-service nonprofit fair housing organization for the public to go to. Given the demonstrated need to address housing discrimination and the value that the FHIP program provides, we urge the Subcommittee to provide $45 million in funding for FHIP in FY 2019.

We must do all we can to maintain support for FHIP and continue to take on the important work of eliminating housing discrimination and maintaining housing opportunities available to every American. Thank you for your consideration of this request and your support of efforts to end housing discrimination.

Sincerely,