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HUD Memo: Ensuring Fair Housing Amidst Ongoing Religious Discrimination in the United States

According to HUD Memo: Ensuring Fair Housing Amidst Ongoing Religious Discrimination in the United States (May 25, 2023), federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion and national origin. However, lawsuits and news stories highlight the persistence of antisemitic discrimination in housing.

The memo states that in 2018, the town of Chester, New York implemented a set of discriminatory housing practices designed to prevent members of the Jewish community from moving to Chester. After the New York Attorney General sued, the town agreed to both change their zoning practices and enhance fair housing training and compliance procedures.

In addition, in 2022, another lawsuit alleged that the Town Board of Crawford, New York, violated the Fair Housing Act after denying a zoning change when residents raised objections based on antisemitic sentiment against Orthodox Jews, specifically Hasidic families.

Furthermore, in 2022, the Department of Justice reached a settlement in a lawsuit against Jackson Township, New Jersey, alleging the city council enacted two ordinances that banned dormitories and severely restricted where religious schools could locate in response to the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community in the area.

Moreover, the memo describes how the federal Fair Housing Act protects persons of all religions and states that fair housing violations on the basis of religion might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • refusing to rent to women who wear hijabs;
  • harassing tenants because of their religious practices or dress;
  • allowing some tenants to put up Christmas lights, but telling others they cannot put up decorations for their non-Christian holidays;
  • telling tenant applicants they will not like a neighborhood because there is no synagogue, mosque, or church nearby;
  • prohibiting use of a community room for religious purposes, while allowing tenants to use them for secular gatherings.
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