On April 11, 1968 – almost 50 years ago – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and fair housing became law. In signing the landmark measure, President Johnson declared, “Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. It proclaims that fair housing for all, all human beings who live in this country, is now part of the American way of life.”
The 1968 Act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).
The Fair Housing Act came only after a long and difficult journey. From 1966-1967, Congress regularly considered the fair housing bill, but it failed to garner a strong enough majority for passage.
However, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, proved to be a pivotal moment for both the nation, the Fair Housing Act and civil rights. A passionate advocate for fair housing, Dr. King’s name had always been closely associated with its passage since the 1966 open housing marches in Chicago.
President Johnson viewed the Civil Rights Act as a fitting memorial to Dr. King’s life work, and he pushed to get it passed before Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta.
Fifty years later, April is celebrated as Fair Housing Month; and on April 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will mark the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in a ceremony in Washington, DC.
“It was a seminal moment in our country’s history when the ideals of equality and fairness were embodied in a law that continues to shape our communities and our neighborhoods 50 years later,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “But the promises of the Fair Housing Act require our constant vigilance to confront housing discrimination in all its forms and to advance fairness on behalf of those seeking their American dream.”
Today, Realtors continue to be an advocate for fair housing, while HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity continues to take action against individuals and housing providers that engage in discrimination. In 2017, HUD and its partner agencies received more than 8,000 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Fair Housing Act’s seven protected classes.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.
© 2018 Florida Realtors®