April is Fair Housing Month, a campaign brought to you by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). The goal is to educate the public and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. We’d like to do our part by posting a few Q & A sessions with ACCC’s Housing Counseling Manager, Scott Withiam. Take it away, Scott!
Question: Hey Scott, why is Fair Housing Month celebrated in April?
Answer: In April of 1968 the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The legislation was passed on the heels of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.
Question: What does Fair Housing have to do with Civil Rights?
Answer: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was known as the Fair Housing Act, and it prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Over time, the Act has been amended to protect seven different classes. The seven protected classes, as they’re known, are race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, and familial status. These can be expanded by states or local entities. Some states, for instance, include marital status, age, ancestry, military status, sexual orientation or source of income as protected classes.
Question: What is the intent of Fair Housing?
Answer: The purpose and intent of Congress was to promote housing integration and discourage segregation. The intent remains intact in the fourth goal of HUD’s Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2010-2015, which is to “build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”
Question: All of those problems happened in 1968. This is a new century and era. America has progressed. We’re a much more open nation. Does discrimination in housing still exist?
Answer: Consider a small sampling of some recent quotes from online articles and newspapers that are on my desk…
-“The 2010 Census reveals that 21st Century segregation is a story of isolation [housing included] from opportunity.”
-“The Metropolitan St. Louis Fair Housing Opportunity Council had made it clear it intended to hold condominium developers liable for what is perceived as violations of the Fair Housing Act earlier this year when they released a report that chastised developers for a lack of compliance with the minimum requirements for [handicap] accessibility.”
-“We found that many senior housing providers targeted their marketing unlawfully by portraying only white residents in their marketing materials, or by using words or phrases that could suggest a preference for Christian or non-disabled residents.”
-“Countrywide, a now-defunct mortgage company owned by Bank of America, gave subprime loans to 10,000 Hispanic and African-American borrowers, while providing prime loans for white borrowers with similar financial situations. (Subprime loans come with higher interest rates to account for supposed higher risk of default.)” –United States v. Countrywide Corporation, Countrywide Home Loans and Countrywide Bank
Stay tuned for more Fair Housing Q & A this April with our Housing Counseling Manager, Scott Withiam! Have a question of your own? Post in the comments!