Housing is a basic need, but it also plays a major role in defining our quality of life. Our homes guarantee our security and access to opportunities and amenities such as schools, employment, and transportation. That’s why having access to the housing of our choice is so important.
Thanks to the activists who came before us, the Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago on April 11, 1968 to prohibit sellers, landlords, or financial institutions from denying us housing based on our race, color, religion, or national origin. The 1968 law has been amended twice to expand coverage to prohibit discrimination based on sex, disability, or familial status.
Why the Fair Housing Act was needed
Black, Hispanic, and Asian military personnel fought or even lost their lives during America’s many wars, but when they returned home, they had a hard time buying or renting a house because of the color of their skin. Veterans of color were not the only ones facing housing discrimination. People of color in post-war America were humiliated and turned down when seeking housing for their families, including this Olympian who won gold medals for the U.S. but couldn’t buy a home because he was Asian.
Organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the G.I. Forum, and the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing tried to change that. Martin Luther King Jr. was also one of the people calling for fair housing in addition to other civil rights.
Thanks to Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first African-American to be elected to the Senate, he and Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota authored the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination. During the debate over the proposed legislation, Brooke talked about his personal experience after his return from World War II and how he was not able to provide a home of his choice for his family because of his race.
The passage of the act was contentious. At the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the bill was passed as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 one week after the assassination of Dr. King. A strong supporter of the bill, Johnson called the new law one of the "promises of a century... it proclaims that fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life."
Federal employees are instrumental in enforcing the law
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has played a major role in enforcing this important law because the 1968 law created the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) under HUD to investigate complaints of housing discrimination.
FHEO, which also enforces other laws that ensure equal access to housing, not only processes more than 1,000 complaints a year but also oversees 8,500 complaint investigations conducted annually by nearly 90 state and local government Fair Housing Act enforcement agencies, which are funded through the Fair Housing Act Assistance Program.
AFGE is proud to represent HUD employees who have played an important role in ensuring fair housing for all.
Need more information about the act or want to file a complaint? Click here.