The nonprofit group Legal Aid of Arkansas has been awarded $425,000 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of an initiative that supports organizations working to address housing discrimination.
Legal Aid is considered a second-year grantee under the Private Enforcement Initiative, which "funds non-profit fair housing organizations to carry out testing and enforcement activities to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices," according to a Housing and Urban Development news release issued on Wednesday.
The $425,000 grant was the only award to an organization based in Arkansas out of a total of approximately $54 million awarded to 182 groups nationwide as part of the Fair Housing Initiatives Program, which encompasses the Private Enforcement Initiative as well as other programs.
According to Jason Auer, the Fair Housing Project director for Legal Aid, the group has received approximately $1.7 million from Housing and Urban Development for the Private Enforcement Initiative since 2019.
"The primary function of the grant is to represent victims of housing discrimination," Auer wrote in an email on Thursday. "We do this by assisting clients in bringing affirmative and defensive claims in state and federal court as well as representation in administrative cases before HUD and the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission. We also assist clients in obtaining less formal relief such as reasonable accommodation and modifications on behalf of individuals with disabilities."
Additionally, grant funds are used "to conduct systemic investigations to ensure housing providers are complying with state and federal civil rights laws and to conduct education and outreach to individuals and community organizations throughout Arkansas," Auer said.
Services provided as part of the Fair Housing Project are free regardless of a prospective client's income, according to Auer. The project serves all the counties in the state, he said.
"Far too many families in our country still face unconscionable prejudice, both as renters and homeowners," U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge said in a statement included with the release. "The Fair Housing Initiatives Program puts money into communities to help them root out discrimination in housing. I am pleased to provide our state and local partners with the resources they need to combat inequity and build a fairer, more inclusive country for all."