April is Fair Housing Month, and this year the Department of Housing and Urban Development celebrates the 53rd anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act. The landmark act, signed into law on April 11, 1968, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and family status.
The law has strong ties to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. In the summer of 1966 in Chicago, King participated in multiple marches calling for open housing in that city. On April 4, 1968, the same day the Senate voted on the bill, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The bill narrowly passed in the Senate, and President Johnson urged the House of Representatives to pass the bill as a fitting testament to King and his legacy. The bill passed the House and was signed into law the following day.
Even though the act has been in place for 53 years, it still plays a vital role in guarding against housing discrimination. According to the 2018-2019 HUD State of Fair Housing Annual Report to Congress, there were 7,679 completed investigations by HUD and DHAP agencies of housing discrimination in 2019. The highest number of discrimination complaints comes from those with disabilities (4,767), followed by race (2,002).
HUD has created two programs that can help identify and prevent housing discrimination. The first is their Real People Real Results campaign that each week recognizes a person that has taken a stand against housing discrimination. Anyone can nominate a Fair Housing champion by sending a photo and a summary of the nominee to firstname.lastname@example.org. The second program is the National Fair Housing Training Academy, which is focused on building the knowledge, skills, and capacity of HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives (FHIP) and Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) organization partners. The NFHTA program includes National Fair Housing forums and instructor-led courses.
If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status, you can file a complaint with HUD by calling the Housing Discrimination Hotline at 800-669-9777.