Under the Fair Housing Act and its 1988 amendments, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has the power to investigate alleged discrimination in public housing. The targets of these investigations are often neighborhood organizations and community groups voicing their opposition to the placement of public housing in their neighborhoods. The alleged discrimination can be nothing more than group meetings and the petitioning of local government officials. Mindful that such investigations have sometimes adversely affected the exercise of First Amendment rights, in 1994 HUD issued guidelines for handling fair housing complaints when such rights are at issue.
This Note will first explain the goals of the Fair Housing Act and its 1988 amendments, and then will survey some of the representative investigations undertaken by HUD. This Note then will analyze the constitutionality and effectiveness of HUD's new guidelines. Concluding that there remains a potential chilling effect on the housing opponents' First Amendments rights, this Note proposes recommendations for investigations that would safeguard those rights, yet still promote fair housing goals.