Steven Chen, Communications Intern
On April 20, 2023, the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership had the honor of hosting Demetria L. McCain for our BRHP In Conversation series which aims to share and discuss ideas related to housing equity and justice with housing mobility groups, activists, policymakers, and tenants alike. Demetria is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). During the conversation, Deputy Assistant Secretary McCain discussed not only the roles and responsibilities of the HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, but also the importance of everyone’s voice in ensuring all comply with fair housing laws.
April 2023 marks 55 years since the signing of the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, and while progress has been made, there is still much to do to further equitable housing.
One key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of addressing intersectional discrimination. Deputy Assistant Secretary McCain described how discrimination has traditionally been framed in a list of set categories, such as race, gender identity, or national origin, for example, but that it is important to recognize that these categories may not always translate directly to cases of discrimination experienced in the real world. Discrimination may target a combination of factors within these categories, and often takes less-obvious forms, such as lack of training to accommodate disability in both private and public institutions. She also mentioned the restoration of HUD’s “Discriminatory Effects” rule, which aims to combat systemic inequalities and discrimination regardless of whether these inequalities were the products of discriminatory intent. McCain also mentioned that April was Second Chance Month, an effort to raise awareness about specific challenges facing those who were formerly incarcerated.
The conversation also touched on the importance of legislature, both in promoting public interest relief and in stimulating further action. While the FHEO does assist with individual interest relief, Deputy Assistant Secretary McCain underscored the importance of public interest relief in the form of policy that would protect and reinforce fair and equitable housing practices. Recent Presidential memos and even Executive Orders, notably the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, have made important inroads towards promoting housing equity and antidiscrimination practices on a federal level. Still, there is more work to be done to create a fairer system.
Deputy Assistant Secretary McCain echoed the importance of public action, which forms an important part of the fight for equitable housing. In conjunction with legislation and programs promoting equitable housing, we can also play an important role as individuals in promoting and refining fair housing programs across the United States. Public involvement comes in many forms, ranging from discussion of fair housing issues with family and friends, to feedback for FHEO programs and providing public comments on proposed rules. Indeed, McCain mentioned the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, which was in its public comment period at the time, and would implement the Fair Housing Act’s mandate to take proactive action towards fair housing and foster communities free from discrimination. Getting involved helps both improve proposed legislation and helps bring the issue of equitable housing – an issue that affects millions of Americans – into the public eye.
For more detail into all this and more, we encourage you to check out the full recording at BRHP In Conversation With Demetria McCain