Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the Department of Justice to help kick-off Fair Housing Month.
One year ago, as we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, HUD and DOJ announced a Joint Task Force to combat sexual harassment in housing. Since then, we have worked together to educate the public about the prevalence of sexual harassment, and to increase our enforcement work to hold accountable those who prey on vulnerable tenants.
As many of you know, the Department of Justice has launched a Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative. And one of the most important aspects of that initiative is public outreach. We have developed and disseminated a wide variety of outreach materials about sexual harassment in housing, including flyers in eleven languages. And DOJ has already held 22 roundtables with community stakeholders throughout the country.
We are especially pleased to have released a video Public Service Announcement featuring three aggrieved persons from DOJ cases who describe the sexual harassment they experienced and the ways that harassment affected them. I should note that these cases originated here at HUD. This PSA, which HUD has helped distribute, provides powerful personal accounts of harassment and its impact on people’s lives.
These personal accounts motivate us to continue this work. I want to recognize and applaud the women who have come today to tell you their stories of being harassed. Their presence is powerful and brave, and they inspire us to redouble our efforts to end the scourge of sexual harassment.
Our agencies’ joint efforts are making a difference. As you saw just moments ago, the issue of sexual harassment in housing is receiving unprecedented national media attention. And we’ve seen a major increase in reporting of sexual harassment. At DOJ, we are investigating many more sexual harassment matters than ever before, and we’ve filed a record number of cases, including some that originated as HUD referrals.
Though today’s focus is on sexual harassment, your agency and mine continue our hard work to combat housing discrimination in all its forms. To mention just two of many recent examples:
- In November, DOJ reached an $11 million settlement in a major lawsuit against a large developer of apartment complexes that were inaccessible to people with disabilities.
- And a couple of months earlier, we resolved a hard-fought exclusionary zoning case in which we alleged that a town refused, for racially discriminatory reasons, to approve low-income housing.
Every year, we pause in April to take stock of the progress we have made in our fight for fair housing, and to look ahead at the work that remains to be done. We at DOJ are honored to be doing this work alongside the talented and dedicated staff here at HUD, and the courageous survivors who come forward to share their very personal and painful stories.