Fair Housing Month
April is Fair Housing Month, and each year we commemorate the 1968 passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing. 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, which was very evident in housing. 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, as public schools were most often neighborhood schools, creating segregation in those 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 the MCHR 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.
- For more detailed information on discrimination in housing, including examples of how discriminatory practices may affect individuals and families, visit our Discrimination in Housing section or view our Fair Housing Consumer Guide.
- For designers and builders, the Fair Housing Act Design Manual provides guidance about ways to design and construct housing to comply with the Fair Housing Act.
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:
- April 9: The keynote speaker for the 2012 Columbia Universal Design Summit is Colleen Starkloff, co-founder of the Starkloff Disability Institute. Her presentation will be on “Universal Design: 21st Century Policy.” The event will be held on April 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Sanford-Kimpton Building on 1005 W. Worley Street in Columbia.
- April 20: The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council presents its Annual Fair Housing Training Conference on April 20 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with the theme being The Changing Faces of Fair Housing. The location of this year’s event is the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis.
- April 23: The City of Columbia will host a public fair housing event, featuring state and federal housing officials, including: MCHR’s Executive Director, Dr. Alisa Warren; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Compliance Branch Chief, Denise Gipson; and Mid-Missouri Legal Services’ Staff Attorney, Michael Carney. The event will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on April 23 in the City of Columbia Council Chambers at 701 East Broadway in Columbia. For more information, contact Ms. Negar Rezvani at nrezvani@GoColumbiaMO.com.
- April 27: The Kansas City Human Relations Department's Civil Rights Division is hosting its 4th Annual Civil Rights/Fair Housing Summit on April 27 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd Street, Kansas City. The Summit will focus on “Mass Incarceration: The New Frontier in the Fight for Civil Rights.”
More housing information and resources are available in Missouri and across the United States:
- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is implementing a landmark national mortgage settlement, which will provide significant benefits to eligible Missourians, including $156 million to help Missouri homeowners and those who have been foreclosed on. The settlement resolved certain state and federal investigations against five of the nation’s largest banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial (GMAC). To learn more and register for potential benefits under the settlement, call the Attorney General’s mortgage settlement toll-free hotline at 855-870-7676 or visit http://ago.mo.gov/mortgageSettlementInfo.htm.
- MCHR continues to work toward fair housing with public education and outreach through our Show-Me Fair Housing Awareness Project, which has expanded from Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, and Stoddard counties in Southeast Missouri to also include Jasper and Newton counties in Southwest Missouri – both regions having experienced severe natural disasters with devastating impact on Missourians’ lives and their housing.
- The Missouri cities of Independence and Columbia have each developed an analysis of impediments to fair housing in their communities, with investigation into and documentation of demographic, social, institutional, and cultural impediments that block equal access to housing.
- HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research Best Practices Series highlights sustainable housing and community development projects and innovations from across the country. The most recent report details the revitalization of Old North St. Louis, Missouri: Crown Square Historic Rehabilitation in Old North St. Louis.
- The Missouri Housing Development Commission provides financing to developers of affordable housing, home mortgages to qualified first-time buyers, and advisory, consultative, training and educational services to non-profit housing organizations.
- The Missouri Affordable Housing Locator is a service to help individuals find quality affordable rental housing in the state of Missouri, listing properties that are visited periodically by the Missouri Housing Development Commission for quality purposes.
- The Governor's Committee to End Homelessness, also known as the Missouri Interagency Council on Homelessness, compiles information on the state of the homeless in Missouri in its Annual Report.
- The Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities funds the Missouri Home of Your Own (HOYO) Housing Resources, devoted to assisting individuals with developmental disabilities in need of accessible and affordable housing.
- The Missouri Department of Mental Health Housing Team provides information on fair housing for individuals with mental health issues.
- HUD covers many areas of interest on its website, including Buying a Home, Fair Lending, and Avoiding Foreclosure.
- HUD is currently managing an Assessment on the Housing Needs of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, with a final report expected in December 2014.
- Making Home Affordable is an official program of the Departments of the Treasury & HUD, conceived to help struggling homeowners get mortgage relief through a variety of programs.
- For advice on buying a home, renting, default, foreclosure avoidance, credit issues or reverse mortgages, utilize the Counseling Program sponsored by HUD.