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May, as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, immediately follows April which is Fair Housing Month. In tandem, these months highlight the real work ahead of us at HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), and across governmental agencies to ensure that the promise of civil rights for all Americans is fulfilled equally among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).
Our job at FHEO can be described as enforcing the Fair Housing Act's prohibition on rental, sales and lending discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, religion, disability, family status or color. It includes our partnerships with organizations to educate the AAPI community's housing consumers and providers about their rights and responsibilities under the Act.
But it is more than that. Our job is to create and support inclusive communities for all people.
It is about moving away from the typical follow up question too often asked of members of the community: "No, where are you REALLY from?"
Discrimination should have no place in America. For decades, Asians were kept from the United States by discriminatory immigration laws and, when here, from mainstream neighborhoods by racially restrictive housing covenants.
Our mission to ensure that every community is open cannot be accomplished without the active involvement of AAPI community leaders and organizations. That is why we have translated over 100 vital HUD documentsinto many Asian languages and have used our bilingual hiring authority to ensure we can serve all members of our communities.
For a variety of reasons, the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity receives relatively few discrimination complaints from AAPI community members. But we do not kid ourselves into believing that this means that the discrimination does not exist. Our own studies reflect that in about one in five instances in which AAPIs seek housing, they face less favorable treatment than others. Together, we have the resources and remedies to confront discrimination where it exists, prevent it before it occurs, and ensure equal treatment in housing for AAPIs.
HUD's overall mission of better housing is incomplete unless we have fairer housing. Fair housing cannot be achieved if AAPIs are left out. Let us recommit ourselves this AAPI Heritage month to end housing discrimination facing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across America, and carry this mandate moving forward for this year and years beyond. Join us at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or on Facebook.
John Trasviña is the Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.