April is Fair Housing Month, and this month is of particular import because it marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act is a vital piece of legislation that helps to protect the civil rights of groups that are discriminated against while seeking housing.
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and his death was a catalyst in motivating Congress to pass, and the President to sign, the Fair Housing Act just one week later. On April 11, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. This made it illegal for anyone to refuse to sell or rent housing based on race, color, religion, or national origin. For fifty years, Fair Housing Month has been celebrated by spreading awareness about the Fair Housing Act and the ongoing efforts to ensure that every neighborhood is a place of opportunity.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act was an addition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as the Civil Rights Act did not sufficiently specify non-discriminatory housing laws and some minorities continued to experience blatant discrimination in housing after the Civil Rights Act was adopted. Many places around the United States later expanded the Fair Housing Act so that it would encompass other minority groups.
Before the Fair Housing Act, realtors or property managers could adjust the prices of selling, renting or financing a property based on the groups they wanted to discourage from moving into specific locations.
Advertising of homes was directed toward the groups that the landlords considered desirable. Some realtors wouldn’t display “For Sale” signs in front of properties in certain neighborhoods, in an effort to discourage minority buyers from even knowing that a home was on the market, much less purchasing said home.
Steering is another discriminatory practice that refers to any words or actions by a realtor that are intended to sway or influence prospective buyers’ or tenants’ decision. In this particular instance, it refers to realtors attempting to guide prospective buyers or lessees to buy or rent in neighborhoods composed of people of the same race. These tactics, among others, are classic examples of racial discrimination that are illegal under the Fair Housing Act.
Today, anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against while they are trying to find housing can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This federal agency tracks any unfair housing practices regarding race, color, religion or national origin, as specified in the original act, but now includes discrimination based on sex, disability, or familial status (some landlords refuse to rent to people with children).
HUD, along with various other federal, state, and local organizations, makes it part of its mission to educate communities on the right to fair housing and offers many educational tools to assist with finding and financing suitable housing without discrimination.
At First Federal Bank, we understand how important it is to have access to the home you want for your family. If you are looking to finance or refinance a home, our experts can help. We are an Equal Housing Lender insured by the FDIC, which means that we conduct business in accordance with federal fair lending laws that prohibit banks from denying loans or discriminately adjusting loan terms based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, handicap, or familial status.
We have talented mortgage specialists who have extensive experience helping people arrange affordable financing for their homes, and who know all the necessary steps to ensure that your mortgage is right for your family. We look forward to working with you when it’s time to choose your dream home.