Fair Housing Month

Fair Housing MonthEach year in April we commemorate the 1968 passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing, by celebrating Fair Housing Month.  Attempts to pass a fair housing bill in 1966 and 1967 failed due to a widespread lack of support in the Senate.  Equality in every aspect of life was a major issue in 1960s America, and inequality in housing was very evident.  There was an alarming lack of affordable homes for rent or purchase by certain families due to their race or national origin.  African-American and Hispanic soldiers in Vietnam made up a significant portion of the growing casualty list, yet their wives and children were prohibited from living in many residential developments throughout our country.  The ramifications of this situation were not limited to housing, but included segregation in public schools as most were often neighborhood schools.  Jobs were more abundant in suburban areas, but many minority workers were locked into urban living with long and costly commutes being nearly impossible to manage.

Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to approve the latest bill in honor of Dr. King's involvement in the battle for fair housing.  Finally, the Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Johnson on April 11, 1968.  The Act prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on national origin, race, religion, and sex.  An amendment in 1988 strengthened the Act by adding administrative enforcement procedures and prohibiting discrimination based on disability and familial status.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) celebrated the first anniversary of the Act in the Grand Ballroom of New York's Plaza Hotel, and states around the country soon began to designate April as “Fair Housing Month,” while children learned about the importance of fair housing by participating in coloring and essay contests at school.  Though we continue to commemorate the strides made by the passage and enforcement of these Acts, there is still much work to be done.

Working in conjunction with HUD, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) seeks to end housing discrimination in our state.  The Missouri Human Rights Act makes illegal any discriminatory action taken against an individual in any aspect of housing based upon race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, familial status (children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.  If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination, the necessary steps to file a complaint are provided in the Filing a Complaint section of MCHR’s website. If you desire more information about how to comply with fair housing laws, MCHR’s Show-Me Fair Housing Awareness Project offers training to housing professionals including realtors, lenders, landlords, and property managers.

To learn more about your fair housing rights and responsibilities, attend any of the following events in your area and around Missouri throughout the month:

More housing information and resources are available in Missouri and across the United States: