Why is April National Fair Housing Month?

Beginning in April of 1968, National Fair Housing Month has been observed during the month of April. The Fair Housing Act gives all citizens of the United States equal rights to the sale, rental, and financing of housing with no discrimination based on race, color, national original, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.  In addition, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in any aspect of a credit transaction based on marital status, age, receipt of public assistance income, or exercise of rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

A Brief History of the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in April of 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is formally titled, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and it is a landmark piece of legislation for the United States.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is tasked with enforcing the Fair Housing Act. Anyone that believes that he or she has been discriminated against, or believes their civil liberties listed in the Act have been violated can file administrative complaints with HUD. HUD and its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is responsible for investigating all Fair Housing Act claims.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination in residential real estate transactions is prohibited based on race, color, national original, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is a separate act. It prohibits discrimination in credit transactions based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because you receive public assistance.

The Impact of the Fair Housing Act

Just like anything else, the Fair Housing Act has needed to evolve over time. When it was initially signed into law in 1968 it only prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin. Congress passed the law due to continuous discrimination against African Americans and other racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Discrimination based on sex was also prohibited with an amendment to the act in 1974, due to discrimination against women. 1988 is when the law was changed to prohibit the discrimination against anyone with a disability and familial status. Families and persons with disabilities were being discriminated against before the passage of this Act in 1988. Familial status includes the presence of any child under the age of 18.

There have been calls to change the law to prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation in recent decades. No such amendments have been made to the Fair Housing Act since 1988.

Why April is National Fair Housing Month

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in April 1968, one week after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Dr. King was an activist for equal human rights, including housing. To commemorate the life of Dr. King, and to bring attention to the continued fight for fair housing in the United States, we celebrate National Fair Housing Month every April.

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