Background Information

Federally-assisted housing providers are required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to provide meaningful access to people with limited English proficiency (LEP). LEP persons include anyone “who does not speak English as their primary language and who has a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English . . .” (HUD LEP Guidance, 6872 Fed. Reg. 273244) (Jan. 22, 2007).

Title VI states that no person, “on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity” that is federally funded. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from engaging in such discrimination as well. The Supreme Court, in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), interpreted Title VI as prohibiting conduct that has a disproportionate effect on LEP persons because of its relationship to national origin. This means that federally assisted housing providers must create meaningful access to their programs for LEP persons.

SOURCE: National Housing Law Project; http://nhlp.org/resourcecenter?tid=88

National Multi Housing Council v. Jackson

The National Multi Housing Council challenged HUD’s LEP guidance in federal district court in National Multi-Housing Council v. Jackson, Civil Action No. 07-0815 (D.DC. Mar. 28, 2008). The landlords argued that HUD exceeded its statutory authority under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and that its guidance was arbitrary and capricious, thus violating the Administrative Procedures Act. The court dismissed their motion for lack of ripeness and standing, but the memorandum is instructive in understanding the landlords’ continuing resistance to LEP compliance.

An outline on the rights of people with limited English proficiency in federally assisted housing.

LEP Resource Links

Legal Services of Northern California Language Access Page
Includes language access materials across a broad range of issues, including housing.

The Migration Policy Institute Language Portal

From MPI Website: "The Language Portal is a searchable digital library of close to 600 resources relating to the use of language access services in social services and public safety agencies. . . Geared towards government administrators who want to make their services accessible to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, the Portal provides relevant documents and guidance so agency staff can avoid recreating the wheel when providing translation and interpretation services."

Empire Justice Center
The Empire Justice Center's language access project addresses the issue in numerous federal agencies. The Housing page includes pdf's of conciliation agreements, cases, and federal guidance.

The Federal Government’s LEP Interagency Working Group
This useful page contains a great deal of information on LEP, including information on how to comb through LEP census data.

National Language Access Advocates Network

This site contains a library of language access resources. Includes up-to-date information and news