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What is Fair Housing Month, And Why Does it Matter to You?

Fair Housing Month serves as a reminder and a celebration of the Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, or disability.

 

(updated from an earlier post)

 

This year marks the 46th anniversary of the adoption of Section VIII of the Civil Rights Act, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act.  The legislation, passed to prevent discrimination in housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, or religion, was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968.    

 

The act was a long-awaited addition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which did not include sufficient enforcement provisions against housing discrimination.   Minorities continued to face discrimination in selling, renting, and financing in the real estate industry, exacerbating the social and economic inequalities through racially segregated neighborhoods.  

 

The Chicago Freedom Movement and, more importantly, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, gave substantial momentum to the debate on fair housing and led to the passage of the bill just a week later.

 

The Fair Housing Act prohibits any discriminatory practices in the sale, rental, financing, or advertising of a dwelling.  Before its adoption, “blockbusting” – informing homeowners that the value of their property would gradually decline due to the influx of racial minorities to the neighborhood – or denying an available property to a buyer or renter from a protected class, were common practices in the real estate market.  In some instances, realtors posted “sold” signs on available properties in white neighborhood to discourage buyers from minority groups.  These and other practices were all made illegal by the Fair Housing Act.

 

Today, any person who feels discriminated against under the Fair Housing Act can file a complaint with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), entrusted with administering the act.  HUD possesses investigation, conciliation, and mandatory enforcement tools to ensure that the law is respected and properly exercised at the federal level.  Every year, HUD and its sister agencies across the nation receive over 10,000 complaints on discriminatory practices in the real estate market.

 

Many local governments decided to expand the list included in FHA by other protected classes.  For example, Philadelphia, PA, has housing anti-discrimination laws that pertain to sexual orientation and source of income.  For more information on local ordinances, click here.

 

HUD, along with state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local governments, celebrate April as the Fair Housing Month through various seminars, conferences, education programs, presentations, public outreach campaigns, and publications. 

 

Moreover, many state assemblies and local municipalities adopt proclamations on Fair Housing Month, including the State of Florida and the City of Twin Falls, ID

 

Check your local housing and community development department for more information on how the Fair Housing Month is celebrated in your city.

 

Below is a video for this year's Fair Housing Month from the Deparment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), followed by a gallery of media about Fair Housing laws and principles.

 

What You Can Do

 

Check out ProPublica's series "Living Apart" by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, which does a deep dive into fair housing in America.

 

Watch Out for the Top Ten Fair Housing Mistakes.

 

Learn about the Fair Housing Compaint Process at HUD.