Ask the Expert - What is Fair Housing Month?

  • by Snohomish County Camano Association of REALTORS®
  • Apr 8, 2024, 09:53 AM
SCCAR BLOG FH

Q: What is Fair Housing Month?

A: Fair Housing Month is observed every April to commemorate the passage of the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act which prohibited discrimination in housing. The Fair Housing Act is a federal law which forbids discrimination in most housing-related activities, including buying, selling, renting, or financing, based on such immutable characteristics as race, color, sex, national origin, or religion.

Since its initial passage through congress, the Act has been amended to include further protections against discrimination based on disability and familial status. This Act currently constitutes Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and is enforced at the federal level by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Fair Housing Act has a wide scope with a limited number of exceptions – however, it does have exceptions. For example, it does not apply to owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented directly by the owner without an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations or private clubs that limit occupancy exclusively to their members.

The battle for fair housing has a long history, beginning right after the US Civil War, during the Reconstruction period. Just as the country was rebuilding, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. This 1866 Act provided a guarantee of property rights to all citizens regardless of their race. However, the courts interpreted the legislation narrowly, only applying prohibitions on racial discrimination done by the government.

83 years later, in 1949, Washington State established the Board Against Discrimination – known as the Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) since 1971. WSHRC was tasked with enforcing laws against discrimination in Washington. Current discrimination protection laws include equal protections for employment, property transactions, credit transactions, insurance transactions, and public accommodations.

In 1962, as the battle for civil rights continued to intensify, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 11063. This Executive Order established a huge step forward in the fight for fair housing. The Order prohibited the discrimination in the sale, leasing, rental, or other disposition of properties and facilities owned or operated by the federal government or provided with federal funds. The main thrust of the Order was that it banned segregation in federally funded housing.

Two years later, Congress enacted Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like JFK’s Executive Order, this measure prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Then, on March 11th, 1968, after years of Congress repeatedly considering and rejecting legislation to prohibit discrimination in private housing transactions, the Fair Housing Act was finally passed. The passage of the act was an immense step forward for civil rights and equality in the housing market. In subsequent years, fair housing practices have prevailed against certain challenges and been further bolstered and refined at both the state and national levels.

The Fair Housing Act has since become a foundational piece of civil rights legislation. Despite providing numerous protections to various classes, there remain certain challenges in proving intentional discrimination. Working to further curb discrimination, Washington State continues to fill in the legal gaps by offering additional protections beyond the Fair Housing Act’s regulatory scope. And although housing discrimination has become much less prevalent due to such laws, it can still be found in certain corners of the country.

Fair Housing is an issue that will continue to be championed by REALTORS®. The national, state, and local associations will continue to fight against discrimination in housing and seek to provide a level playing field for all current and future homeowners.

For more information about buying or selling a home, be sure to work with a REALTOR®, a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Snohomish County Camano Association of REALTORS® is the voice for real estate in Snohomish County. If you have questions for The Expert about real estate email us at info@sccar.org, or visit www.sccar.org for more information.