Bringing a new child into a family and buying a house are two momentous and happy occasions for any family. When HUD’s Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity (FHEO) learned that some mortgage lenders had policies or practices that make qualifying for a mortgage more difficult for pregnant women or parents on parental leave, we leapt into action. We knew that treating pregnant women and parents differently when issuing a mortgage could be a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender or family status, amongst other categories.
With the help of Moms Rising, a 1.1 million member strong virtual community, we are uncovering cases around the country. Our partners at Moms Rising describe the stories of mortgage discrimination their members report as “heartbreaking and infuriating.” I would add one more word: “Illegal.”
I got to know Dr. Elizabeth Budde, an Asian American immigrant who has become a top cancer researcher in Seattle. Dr. Budde initially received approval for a mortgage while she was pregnant, but the offer was rescinded when she took maternity leave after the birth of her child. Dr. Budde stepped forward to bring this issue to light, and inspired others to bring forward their own stories of discrimination. A dedicated team in our FHEO office is leading the way to provide relief to Dr. Budde and other victims of discriminatory mortgage policies and to foster industry changes so that families will no longer face roadblocks to qualifying for a mortgage.
This week, I accepted a Superhero Award from Moms Rising on behalf of our team, who did the real work. Together, all of us will continue to make progress for women and their families because fair treatment when getting a home loan is a real family value. Housing discrimination based on gender or against families with children was not covered when President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in 1968, but has since been added to the list of protected groups. These types of discrimination, along with disability, race, religious and national origin discrimination, constitute important parts of our work today.
For more information and HUD help on housing discrimination, call 1-800-669-9777 or visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
John Trasvina is Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development