By Jess Barron, Lindsey’s Inc. Realtors
You may now know this but the Fair Housing Act turns 50 this year.
On April 11, 1968 the Fair Housing Act was enacted into Law. The Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin. In 1974, the Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex (National Association of Realtors).
Unfortunately, the pursuit of equal housing did not come without resistance, harassment and violence. It is important to note that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated just a week before the Fair Housing Act was passed. In later years, the Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on gender, disability and familiar status.
This may be hard to believe but for many years, where you wanted to live was not necessarily a free choice. Where you lived was often determined by the color of your skin. Builder, brokers, rental property managers, etc. would practice “steering.” This involves inducing customers to live in neighborhoods of the same race. Before fair housing, many real estate brokers and investors would convince the residents of a neighborhood that new, minority owners were moving there, in hopes of causing the property values to go down. The brokers and investors would then buy the properties at a reduced value. This is called “blockbusting.” If you see “steering” or “blockbusting” happening today, please report it. These are clear violations of the Fair Housing Act.
Today, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is ran by Secretary Ben Carson and his staff. HUD and its staff are essential to fair housing. Their mission is as follows; “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business (HUD.gov)”. HUD reports that the highest report of complaints involves discrimination based on disability (National Association of Realtors). Currently, only half the country prohibits discrimination in housing against the LGBT community (National Association of Realtors). This is likely to increase very soon.
In today’s time, many people believe that we, as a country, are more divided than ever. It is important to remember those like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what all they sacrificed to enable great things like the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The real estate practice, while not perfect, is more just than ever thanks to the Fair Housing Act and its amendments through the years. As a Realtor, we are held to a code of ethics. Realtors strive to be just and fair in all our transactions.
Jess Barron is an Associate Broker with Lindseys, Inc. Realtors and President-Elect of the Newnan-Coweta Board of Realtors.