Fair Housing Month
Each 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.
- 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.
- The Tenant's Guide to Apartment Modifications presents illustrated ideas for low-cost modifications that are commonly made to rental dwellings.
- The Home Modifications and Products for Safety and Ease of Use booklet suggests numerous modifications and products that can help when one’s abilities or physical conditions change. Most of the suggestions address mild- to moderate-level issues.
- For designers and builders, the Fair Housing Act Design Manual provides guidance about ways to design and construct housing to comply with the accessibility requirements of 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 1: The Governor's Committee to End Homelessness meets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Parkade Center, Suite 235, 601 Business Loop 70 W, Columbia. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch to the meeting. E-mail email@example.com for more information.
- April 5: The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council presents its Annual Fair Housing Training Conference from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis. The theme is “MLK's Dream of Equitable Integration: Then and Now” as the conference will explore the current costs and consequences of residential segregation in our region. MCHR Senior Human Rights Officer Tammy Carlyle will be the presenter on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. To register, use EHOC’s online registration form or for more information, call 314-534-5800, ext. 7021.
- April 9: Missourians to End Poverty will hold its 2013 Poverty Summit from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 415 West McCarty Street, Jefferson City. Join the coalition as it bring advocates from across the state together to educate policymakers about the realities of living in poverty, with information on housing and energy, health, education, and more. This year’s keynote speaker is Peter Edelman, author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America. For more information, call 573-634-2969, ext. 26.
- April 9: Join the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council for the 12th annual Disability Rights Legislative Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Missouri State Capitol, 201 West Capitol Avenue, Jefferson City. This event brings together Missourians with disabilities and those who care about them to hear from and talk with legislators about issues impacting their lives. For more information, e-mail Cathy Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or Becky Dickey at email@example.com.
- April 10: Attend the Energy and Housing Professional Alliance meeting from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Hawthorn Bank, Community Room, 3600 Amazonas, Jefferson City. For more information, call 573-634-2969.
- April 19: Attend the annual Missouri Housing Development Commission meeting beginning at 9 a.m. at the Stoney Creek Inn & Conference Center, 2601 South Providence, Columbia. The Commission was created by the 75th General Assembly and has invested almost $4 billion to construct, renovate, and preserve affordable housing. For more information, call 816-759-6600 in Kansas City or 314-877-1350 in St. Louis.
- April 30: Attend the Jefferson City Fair Housing Forum beginning at 9 a.m. at the Jefferson City Council Chambers, 320 McCarty, Jefferson City. The Forum is co-sponsored by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the City of Jefferson, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, the Independent Living Resource Center, the Jefferson City NAACP, and the Jefferson City Area Board of Realtors.
- May 6-8: Pre-register for Universal Design Summit 5, at Saint Louis University in the Busch Conference Center, 20 North Grand Boulevard, St. Louis. As North America’s leading conference focused on universal housing and neighborhoods, this year’s event continues to provide exceptional content on universal design in housing, sustainable community design, and affordability to create living environments usable by all. The conference will add significant content on remodeling, accessibility, and commercial projects. For more information, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- May 14: Pre-register for the Fair Housing Accessibility Training provided by the Kansas City Human Relations Department and HUD from 8 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. The event will be held at the Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center, 3200 Wayne Avenue, Kansas City.
More housing information and resources are available in Missouri and across the United States:
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United States Department of Agriculture is adding the state of Missouri to a pilot program that enables current USDA borrowers to save money on housing costs by refinancing their mortgages with lower interest rates. The program expands upon USDA’s ongoing effort to assist rural homeowners holding loans made or guaranteed by USDA Rural Development. Participants in the pilot refinancing program are required to meet income eligibility requirements and must have made their mortgage payments on time for 12 consecutive months. For more information, call Greg Batson at 573-876-9304.
- 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 homeless persons in Missouri in its Annual Report.
- The Missouri cities of Jefferson City, Springfield, Independence, and Columbia, as well as St. Charles County, have each developed and made available online 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 revitalization of Old North St. Louis, Missouri: Crown Square Historic Rehabilitation in Old North St. Louis was featured as part of the series.
- 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 Developmental Disabilities Council funds the Missouri Inclusive Housing Development Corporation, providing information about safe, accessible, quality, affordable housing in Missouri for those with developmental disabilities.
- The Missouri Department of Mental Health Housing Team provides information on fair housing for individuals with mental health issues.
- The Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council works to gather and disseminate information, conduct training on independent living issues, provide outreach to un-served and underserved populations, and work to expand and improve independent living services in the state. It also provides information specific to housing across Missouri.
- HUD has state-specific resources available on topics such as rental help, owning a home, and homelessness and also provides contact information for local and regional offices.
- If you are a homeowner age 62 or older and have paid off your mortgage or paid it down a considerable amount and are currently living in the home, or if you wish to purchase a primary residence, you may be eligible to participate in the Federal Housing Administration's Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, the only reverse mortgage insured by the federal government.
- Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST provides information on Common Violations of the Fair Housing Act Design and Construction Requirements. The organization is supported by HUD and is an initiative designed to promote compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements.
- For advice on buying a home, renting, default, foreclosure avoidance, credit issues, or reverse mortgages, search online for a housing counseling agency near you, or call HUD's interactive voice system at 800-569-4287.
- Making Home Affordable is an important part of the federal government’s comprehensive plan to stabilize the housing market by helping homeowners to avoid foreclosure. MHA programs offer a range of solutions, including mortgage relief for the unemployed, reducing monthly mortgage payments, and refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.
- HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are available to provide you with the information and assistance you need to avoid foreclosure. Foreclosure prevention counseling services are provided free of charge by nonprofit housing counseling agencies working in partnership with the federal government. For a list of agencies in Missouri, visit the Foreclosure Avoidance Counseling website or download the new mobile app for your phone.