A consumer group and two former Housing and Urban Development secretaries recommended the creation of an independent fair-housing enforcement agency.

Henry Cisneros, one of the former HUD secretaries, said in a report released Tuesday that an independent agency was necessary because of conflict-of-interest problems and a weak fair-housing enforcement record at the department.

"HUD is in the awkward position of policing its own programs and its own partners for fair-housing violations," said Mr. Cisneros, who made the recommendation along with the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. "It depends on various entities to carry out its policy goals, and at the same time it is also responsible when acting as a fair-housing enforcer to investigate the very same entities for their housing discrimination. … There's a built-in conflict in the present structure."

There are about 4 million fair-housing violations every year, Mr. Cisneros said, but HUD investigated only about 2,500 cases and filed charges in only 31.

The report is the result of public hearings in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta that drew hundreds of housing experts and residents. The release of the report coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

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