2018 Es­say win­ner: The Ef­fec­tive­ness of the Fair Hous­ing Act of 1968

Times-Record - - NEWS - By SARAH FERKLER 2018 MSBR Es­say Win­ner

The Fair hous­ing Act of 1968 was a piece of leg­is­la­tion that was prom­i­nent to the con­clu­sion of dis­crim­i­na­tion in the mat­ter of home­own­er­ship and rent­ing. Specif­i­cally, the act pro­hib­ited dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of race, sex, re­li­gion, or na­tional ori­gin when con­cern­ing the sale, rental and fi­nanc­ing of hous­ing. The act was first in­tro­duced to Congress in 1966. Over the next two years, the bill was con­sid­ered but never gained the needed sup­port to be rat­i­fied. It was not un­til April 10th, 1968 that the Fair Hous­ing Act was passed by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Although the act for­mally pro­hib­ited dis­crim­i­na­tion, it did lit­tle other than de­seg­re­gate hous­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

The time era of the pass­ing of the Fair Hous­ing Act was a time of great strife for mi­nori­ties in Amer­ica. Race-based hous­ing ar-

range­ments were still in ef­fect in the late 1960’s, by change was cru­cial. As Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights for all peo­ple, he also fought for fair hous­ing. Although King passed away on April 4th, just days be­fore the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the act, Pres­i­dent Ly­don B. John­son stated that the act would be a tes­ta­ment to King and his achieve­ments. Although the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the act was a ma­jor step to­wards racial equal­ity, seg­re­gated hous­ing re­mained an is­sues in the United States for years to fol­low.

Fro 1950 to 1980, the to­tal African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion re­sid­ing in Amer­ica’s ur­ban cen­ters rose from 6.1 mil­lion to 15.3 mil­lion. This shows an im­prove­ment of equal­ity in home­own­er­ship and rent­ing since the 1968 Fair Hous­ing Act. In con­trast to this, white Amer­i­cans were steadily mov­ing out of cities into suburbs, tak­ing many em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties from mi­nori­ties. This, in turn, led to the es­tab­lish­ment of in­ner city com­mu­ni­ties that were plagued with so­cial ills such as un­em­ploy­ment and crime. So. although the Fair Hous­ing Act was an im­por­tant step to­wards racial equal­ity, it can be seen that it did not elim­i­nate dis­crim­i­na­tion in mi­nor­ity hous­ing and rent­ing.

The main in­ten­tion of the Fair Hous­ing Act was to pro­tect po­ten­tial buy­ers and renters of houses from seller or land­lord dis­crim­i­na­tion. The US Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment is the fed­eral depart­ment with the au­thor­ity to en­force the Fair Hous­ing Act. Also, in­di­vid­u­als who be­lieve that they have been a vic­tim of hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion are able to file a com­plaint to the Of­fice of Fair Hous­ing and Equal Op­por­tu­nity (FHEO). Although the act has been strength­ened since its rat­i­fi­ca­tion, en­force­ment still re­mains an is­sue.

Fifty years af­ter the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Fair Hous­ing Act, a lot of change can be seen in the home­own­er­ship field. The bar­ri­ers to in­te­grated hous­ing were for­mally lifted with the pass­ing of this act, a ma­jor mile­stone for African Amer­i­cans. In con­trast to these pos­i­tive changes, prob­lems ex­ist to­day. This in­cludes lim­ited hous­ing choices for mi­nori­ties, and neigh­bor­hoods that lack the in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal safety of other neigh­bor­hoods. When African Amer­i­cans en­ter real es­tate of­fices, they face the risk of re­ceiv­ing less in­for­ma­tion and fa­vor­able treat­ment than white clients. This ev­i­dence shows that in­equal­ity be­tween races within rent­ing and home own­er­ship is still a press­ing is­sue in to­day’s so­ci­ety.

Although the main fo­cus of the Fair Hous­ing Act was orig­i­nally race, it also per­tains to sex, re­li­gion, age and na­tional ori­gin. The Fair Hous­ing Amend­ments Act, which was signed on Septem­ber 13, 1988, also ex­tended the law to pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. This has a per­sonal con­nec­tion to my life, as my grand­fa­ther has been wheel­chair-bound for a ma­jor por­tion of his life. Cur­rently, my grand­par­ents are look­ing to sell their house and rent a small apart­ment in the area. If the amend­ment to this act had not been cre­ated, they might have faced more hard­ships while search­ing for a place to rent than they have en­coun­tered. How­ever, since the act now in­cludes peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, my grand­fa­ther can­not be dis­crim­i­nated against due to his im­mo­bil­ity or age.

As far as the next fifty years go for the Fair Hous­ing Act, I be­lieve that it will con­tinue to pro­duce steps to­wards end­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in rent­ing and home­own­er­ship. An amaz­ing amount of progress has been made since its rat­i­fi­ca­tion, such as the de­seg­re­ga­tion of hous­ing units and the in­crease of 9.2 mil­lion African Amer­i­cans re­sid­ing in ur­ban cen­ters. It is prob­a­ble that the im­prove­ment will con­tinue within the next fifth years. This could lead to com­mu­ni­ties free of vi­o­lence, crime and poverty. Although dis­crim­i­na­tion still proves to be a ma­jor is­sue in to­day’s so­ci­ety, the ad­vance­ment al­ready made seems to serve as a rea­son to be op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture of hous­ing.

In con­clu­sion, the Fair Hous­ing Act of 1968 is an ex­tremely im­por­tant item of leg­is­la­ture that led Amer­i­can one step closer to end­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing and rental mat­ters. With the act was suc­cess­ful, mi­nori­ties still strug­gle when rent­ing and buy­ing hous­ing. Not only do racial or re­li­gious mi­nori­ties face dis­crim­i­na­tion, new fam­ily dy­nam­ics must be con­sid­ered in the next fifty years, so that all may have the op­por­tu­nity to choose where they live. His­tory prom­ises to ful­fill that goal and within the next fifty years more com­mu­ni­ties will have greater diver­sity and ac­cep­tance.


Dor­maim Green, 2019 Mid-Shore Board of Real­tors pres­i­dent; Sarah Ferkler, 2018 first place win­ner of MSBR’s Prop­erty Rights Es­say Con­test; and Daphne Caw­ley, 2018 Mid-Shore Board of Real­tors pres­i­dent, pose with Ferkler’s cer­e­mo­nial check.

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