Residential Segregation and Housing Discrimination in the United States (CERD Shadow Report, 2008)

Residential segregation is an insidious and persistent fact of American life. Discrimination on
the basis of race, while on the decline according to some estimates, continues to pervade nearly
every aspect of the housing market in the United States. This shadow report evaluates the
current state of housing discrimination and segregation and the United States government’s
failure to fulfill its obligations related to housing under the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“CERD”).
Historically, policies and practices of the United States government, as well as state and local
governments, have helped to create highly segregated residential patterns across the United
States. Today, many of the government’s programs and policies continue to perpetuate
segregation and concentrate poverty in communities of color, albeit without the explicit design of
earlier programs. For example, family public housing is highly segregated and predominantly
located in areas of concentrated poverty. Similarly, since 2001, the federal government has
implemented policy changes and budget cuts that have restricted affordable housing choice and
mobility for participants in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. In addition, the
Low Income Housing Tax Credit provides an incentive to develop affordable housing primarily
in poor and predominately minority neighborhoods, which often perpetuates residential
segregation. These federal programs are augmented by state and local government policies that
contribute to residential segregation—including exclusionary zoning rules and school attendance
Nor has the United States government adequately responded to private acts of housing
discrimination. African Americans and Latinos frequently encounter discrimination when
attempting to rent or purchase a home, or when attempting to secure funding or insurance for a
home purchase. Despite its illegality, the practice of “steering,” in which real estate agents direct
people toward homes in buildings or neighborhoods in which their presence will not disturb the
prevailing racial pattern, is becoming more, rather than less, common. In addition, people of
color are more likely than whites with similar borrower characteristics to be victims of predatory
lending, to receive higher cost loans, and to lose their homes to foreclosure. Because home
equity is the largest pool of wealth for most families in the United States, disparities in
homeownership are a major component of persistent racial inequality.
CERD imposes on the United States government an obligation to ensure that all people enjoy the
rights to housing and to own property, without distinction as to race. It requires the United
States government to cease discriminatory actions, including those that are discriminatory in
effect regardless of intent, and to take affirmative steps to remedy past discrimination and
eradicate segregation. This report contains a number of recommendations—addressed
specifically to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice,
the United States Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, and state and local governments—to
assist the United States government in complying with its obligations under CERD.