Washington, D.C. — The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)’s newly released Fair Housing Trends Report documents the highest number of housing discrimination complaints since the data has been collected. Cases in the United States rose substantially in 2021, even though fewer agencies reported complaint data; this is a sign that the agencies investigating housing discrimination cases need more resources to address these critical problems.

NFHA began collecting data about fair housing complaints that consumers file with private fair housing groups, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and state and local government agencies 25 years ago. Although seven fewer agencies reported housing discrimination data to NFHA in 2021 than the previous year, there were 2,504 more housing discrimination complaints filed by consumers. The unprecedented number of 31,216 complaints represents an 8.7 percent increase as compared to 2020 when 28,712 fair housing complaints were filed.

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The dataset offers a snapshot of the millions of instances of housing discrimination that occur annually. Most cases of housing discrimination go unreported, sometimes because targets of discrimination don’t know where to turn or believe reporting is useless, fearing they won’t get redress or could face eviction by vengeful landlords or retaliation from neighbors and housing providers. Others don’t recognize the signs of discrimination without further investigation. Such has been the case with the high number of homeowners experiencing appraisal bias who see their home values increase dramatically after getting a White friend to pretend to be the owner of the home.

NFHA has issued trends reports on housing bias regularly since the mid-1990s as part of its mission to educate the public about the nature, extent, and effect of housing discrimination in the U.S. and ways to mitigate it. This report focuses mainly on the seven federally protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. NFHA will continue to monitor data and cases. “Along with an increase in the number of reported housing discrimination complaints, the nation also experienced a rise in hate violence last year, particularly against Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Jewish communities. Discrimination and bias harm us all, and we all must be united in stamping it out,” added Rice.

Private fair housing organizations processed 72.64 percent of all complaints in 2021, more than 2.6 times the number of complaints processed by state, local and federal government agencies combined, according to the report. This continues a pattern of greater enforcement by the private sector and reinforces the need for more funding and resources for private, non-profit groups that provide direct support to survivors of discrimination. These groups investigate complaints, collect data and information about any alleged violations of the law, provide fair housing counseling and education to consumers, and assist consumers in filing complaints with appropriate authorities.

The 2022 Fair Housing Trends Report also notes that discrimination based on disability accounts for more than half of complaints filed (53.68 percent). The second most reported type of housing discrimination was based on race, with 5,922 or 18.97 percent of all complaints, compared to 16.79 percent in 2020.

Complaints based on sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, made up the third most frequent basis of discrimination, with 2,309 complaints or 7.40 percent. Familial status, with 2,261 complaints or 7.24 percent was fourth, and national origin, with 1,774 reported complaints or 5.68 percent, was fifth. Color was the basis of discrimination for 734 complaints or 2.35 percent, and religion was the basis of 382 complaints or 1.22 percent.

Rental-related housing complaints were the most numerous in 2021, as they have been in previous years. There were 25,501 complaints of rental discrimination filed with non-profit and governmental agencies. Rental transactions are the most frequent housing transaction, and discriminatory aspects of such interactions are easier to identify than other types of transactions, such as lending, insurance, or real estate sales.

Real estate sales complaints made up 4.51 percent of all housing discrimination cases reported in 2021. There were 1,408 in all, an increase of 660 complaints from 2020 when 747 sales complaints were reported.

Eighty NFHA member organizations, all of which are private nonprofit fair housing organizations or fair housing programs of legal aid agencies, collected the private agency data presented in this report. Other sources of data are the DOJ, 10 regional HUD offices, and 76 state and local government agencies. Click here to read the full report. Those who believe they have experienced housing discrimination should file a report with their local fair housing agency, local or state government organization, or HUD.