This advocacy mini-series will cover different aspects of the Fair Housing Act and how this legislation shaped the American housing landscape.
What is the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination in housing (rental and homeownership) based on seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale and rental of housing, in mortgage lending, in advertising, or by harassing perspective renters or buyers. In addition to the federal Fair Housing Act, each state has its own fair housing regulations. Some only prohibit discrimination against the federally protected classes while others are more comprehensive and prevent discrimination against people based on categories such as sexual orientation and identity, source of income, and military status.
History of the Fair Housing Act
After many years of obstacles, advocacy, and setbacks, The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) was signed into law on April 11th, 1968 by President Johnson. Congress considered the fair housing bill multiple times between 1966 and 1967; however, the majority rejected the legislation for years. Specialized organizations like the NAACP lobbied diligently for the Senate to pass the bill. They called attention to the disproportionate number of soldiers of color who fought and died in the Vietnam War, pointing out that people of color who served alongside white soldiers were unable to purchase or rent homes back home because of their race or national origin. Around the same time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr became a prominent voice in support of fair housing. With cities across America rioting after Dr. King’s assassination, support for the Fair Housing Act grew and the legislation was signed into law.
Fair Housing Challenges Today
The Fair Housing Act shifted the housing landscape in America, but there is still room for significant improvement. In 2017, there were 28,843 reported complaints of housing discrimination – likely an under-representation of the actual incidences of discrimination. Many victims of housing discrimination may not report the incident because they face housing insecurity. The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) anticipates close to 4 million cases of housing discrimination each year. The majority (57%) of these cases are based on disability status and nearly a quarter (19%) are based on race. Today, members of protected classes face more nuanced forms of discrimination. For example, landlords may require larger security deposits from applicants who appear to have a different religion or falsely deny a rental unit that is actually available.
What the Fair Housing Act Means to CASA Tenants
Housing discrimination impacts renters the most. According the National Fair Housing Alliance, 90% of the fair housing complaints are filed by renters who face greater housing insecurity compared to homeowners. Many low-income households, especially those living with a disability or experiencing homelessness, face housing insecurity and are vulnerable to discrimination.
At CASA, we provide affordable, secure housing to tenants left out of the conventional housing market. Our impact is limited by the number of units we own. Thousands of extremely low-income households continue to face housing insecurity or homelessness around the Triangle. To make a difference, you can find your representative and advocate for fair housing policy initiatives.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Fair Housing Mini-Series: Redlining – coming next month!