April, recognized as National Fair Housing Month, is a time to reflect on the importance of equal access to housing for all individuals.
This year marks the 55th year that our nation celebrates the passage of the Fair Housing Act. The landmark civil rights law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, made discrimination in housing transactions unlawful in the United States.
Fair Housing Month was first declared by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1968, just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement and advocated for fair housing.
While much progress has been made since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, there is still progress to be made yet.
What Does the Fair Housing Act Prohibit?
Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination when selling, renting, and financing housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Act was amended in 1988 to include protections for people with disabilities and families with children and to strengthen enforcement mechanisms. Some states have additional protected classes. For example, almost half the states prohibit discrimination in housing based on a person’s veteran status.
Fair housing is a critical issue in our society, as housing is a basic human need and affects every aspect of our lives. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential for achieving economic stability, educational opportunities, and social mobility. Discrimination in housing can lead to segregation and isolation, perpetuating poverty and limiting opportunities for individuals and families.
The Fair Housing Act has been instrumental in breaking down the barriers that have historically limited access to housing for certain groups of people. It has also helped to promote diversity and integration in communities across the country, creating more inclusive and equitable neighborhoods and cities.
Why Is Fair Housing Month Important?
Fair Housing Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of fair housing and to promote the principles of equal access to housing. It is also a time to reflect on the progress made in advancing fair housing and the work that still needs to be done to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.
“According to ‘The Danger Report’ done by T-360 and commissioned by NAR, the biggest threat to organized real estate in the United States is unethical brokers and unethical licensees. Stigmas and barriers, as well as steering and redlining tacitly, still exist. Education is key.”
One of the critical goals of Fair Housing Month is to educate the public about fair housing laws and the resources available to individuals who have experienced discrimination. HUD provides various resources for consumers, including information on fair housing rights and responsibilities and guidance on how to file a complaint if discrimination is suspected.
Another fundamental goal of Fair Housing Month is to encourage housing providers to comply with fair housing laws and to promote diversity and inclusion in their communities. Many housing providers and organizations hold events and activities during Fair Housing Month to raise awareness and promote fair housing principles.
Fair Housing Month is also an opportunity to recognize fair housing advocates’ contributions and celebrate the progress made in advancing fair housing. There are many organizations and individuals who work tirelessly to promote fair housing and ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.
Has the Fair Housing Act Accomplished its Goals?
Despite the progress made in advancing fair housing, discrimination in housing still exists. According to HUD, more than 8,000 fair housing complaints were filed in 2020, indicating that discrimination is still a pervasive problem in our society.
“These past few years, we have seen listing agents not wanting to accept FHA or VA contracts for their sellers. Appraisers are sometimes complicit in the bias against certain types of financing.”
– Andrew Show, Past President, NAEBA
Disability-related complaints are a significant area of concern in fair housing. According to HUD, disability-related complaints accounted for more than 55 percent of the fair housing complaints filed in 2020, highlighting the need for continued efforts to address discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Despite progress in fair housing, residential segregation persists in many communities. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that residential segregation based on race and ethnicity remains prevalent in many cities across the United States, leading to unequal access to housing opportunities for marginalized communities.
Fair Housing Enforcement
HUD and other fair housing organizations are working to enforce fair housing laws and hold housing providers accountable for compliance. In fiscal year 2020, HUD secured more than $25 million in settlements and judgments in fair housing cases, emphasizing the ongoing need for enforcement efforts to combat housing discrimination.
One of the challenges in addressing discrimination in housing is that it can be subtle and difficult to detect. Housing discrimination can take many forms, such as steering individuals to specific neighborhoods based on race or national origin, imposing different rental terms on families with children, or denying housing to individuals with disabilities.
It is vital for individuals and organizations to be vigilant in promoting fair housing and to hold housing providers accountable for complying with fair housing laws. Educating the public about the importance of fair housing and promoting diversity and inclusion in our communities is also essential.
Fair Housing Month is a necessary time to reflect on the importance of equal access to housing for all individuals and to raise awareness. Housing is a basic human need and affects every aspect of our lives.
NAEBA believes strongly in eliminating housing discrimination, promoting economic opportunity, and achieving diverse, inclusive communities in every corner of the United States. Exclusive buyer’s agents only focus on the buyer’s side of the transaction and are in tune with potential discriminatory practices. NAEBA agents are dedicated consumer advocates.
“It is the responsibility of real estate professionals to fight against discrimination in the housing market. By upholding the principles of the Fair Housing Act and working to promote greater equity and inclusion in our communities, we can help create a more just and equitable society for all.”