Today marks 50 years since the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act which was passed seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in recognition of his advocacy for “open housing.” Fifty years later, there have been numerous advances in combatting housing discrimination and segregation, but the state of fair housing is in some ways as dire as ever.
Housing discrimination and segregation are linked to every major issue affecting individuals and families nationwide, including access to quality housing, health care, education, healthy foods, a clean environment, mainstream credit, and more. Unfortunately, however, communities of color and other marginalized groups continue to be excluded from access to quality and fair housing, homeowners insurance, and mortgage credit, and many violations of the Fair Housing Act continue. These include, for example, redlining by lending institutions, lending discrimination against Latinos, real estate steering, social media networks such as Facebook, prompting discriminatory housing ads placed by advertisers, discrimination by housing insurance providers, inferior maintenance and marketing of bank-owned foreclosures in communities of color, and inaccessible housing for persons with disabilities.
These systemic examples of infringement on fair housing rights are further fueled by a lack of strong federal government enforcement. The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice have primary responsibility for enforcing the Fair Housing Act, but their fair housing enforcement efforts are thwarted by inadequate resources and staff as well as insufficient resolve. Additionally, there is wholly inadequate and inconsistent funding of fair housing education and enforcement agencies at the local level, the organizations that do the bulk of fair housing work in the nation.
It’s time be serious about fair housing and to push for stronger enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, so that discriminatory barriers to housing choice are eliminated and every neighborhood is a place of opportunity. Housing discrimination and segregation are the bedrock inequities of most other inequities in this nation, and this must be recognized and addressed by government at all levels, business and industry, foundations, and community-based institutions. The National Fair Housing Alliance and its member organizations throughout the U.S. are committed to protecting fair housing rights, educating consumers and the housing industry about their fair housing rights and responsibilities, and promoting access to opportunity in all neighborhoods.
To interview Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA, email Jessica Aiwuyor at firstname.lastname@example.org.