The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Ad Council launched a national campaign Thursday that aims to increase hurricane victims’ knowledge of fair housing rights and reporting of housing discrimination.

The campaign consists of television, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising, which dramatically illustrate the difficulties many hurricane survivors face — “the storm isn’t over.” The TV spots feature scenes from the hurricanes’ devastation and highlight the excuses often heard. The PSAs remind hurricane survivors that housing discrimination is illegal and conclude with the line, “There is hope, there is help.” The ads direct audiences to call 1-800-669-9777 if they feel they may have been victims.

This week, television and radio PSAs are being distributed to stations nationwide via the Fast Channel Network. Newspaper and magazine ads were distributed in December. The new PSAs, created pro bono by ad agency Lowe Worldwide, will air and run in advertising time and space that will be donated by the media.

“The hurricanes caused thousands of people to flee their homes with only the clothes on their backs. HUD is committed to protecting the rights of those still searching for a place to call home. These Americans deserve our best, not a door closed in their face because of the color of their skin,” said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

HUD studies suggest that many hurricane evacuees may experience some form of discrimination during their search for new housing. A 2000 HUD study found that African-Americans and Latinos face discrimination approximately 20 percent of the time they seek to buy or rent housing. Another study, released in 2005, showed that persons with disabilities face discrimination one in three times that they attempt to rent an apartment. The Census Bureau estimates that the majority of the residents displaced by the Gulf Coast hurricanes are minorities, while 20 percent are persons with disabilities.

“The majority of individuals who experience housing discrimination aren’t even aware that they have been victimized and that they would have received different treatment if they were of a different race or national origin, or if they had no disability,” according to Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of The Advertising Council.

The Federal Fair Housing Act, which was signed more than 36 years ago, prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. HUD is the primary federal agency charged with enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws.

People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or DOJ at 1-800-896-7743 or (202) 514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov and www.usdoj.gov.

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