“Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger” is the message the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is touting in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968. This landmark piece of legislation outlawed housing discrimination and residential segregation in the United States.
In 1968, every neighborhood — and the houses or apartments in them — were color coded. By and large, white Americans could live where they wanted and increasingly they chose to move into new, expanding, and segregated suburbs. Most black Americans weren’t as fortunate; even with the money and desire to live in nicer homes and neighborhoods, racial covenants, exclusionary banking practices, and local ordinances limited their housing options primarily to substandard dwellings in overcrowded inner cities.
The Fair Housing Act was successful in striking down the laws that permitted discrimination — REALTORS®, landlords, and home owners could no longer legally make home ownership decisions based on race.
The nation and NAR did not always support fair housing rights. In fact, NAR opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act, and at one time allowed local Associations to exclude members based on race or sex. With the realization that fair housing rights are more than a list of dos and don’ts, rights and penalties, and mandatory continuing education, NAR's understanding of the Act changed over time and today it leads efforts to expand those rights.
As stewards of the right to own, use and transfer private property, fair housing protects our livelihood and business as REALTORS® and depends on a free, open market that embraces equal opportunity. Requirements of this law prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status or disability and sex is incorporated in the NAR Code of Ethics.
Commemorating the Anniversary
REALTORS® are committed to spending this year recognizing the history of fair housing in the nation and how REALTORS® are constantly improving their commitments to fair housing and property rights. The commemoration will focus on three key elements of Fair Housing:
- Acknowledging the organization’s past history and current role in the fight for fair housing;
- understanding how we as a nation are constantly improving our commitment to fair housing; and
- embracing REALTORS®’ role at the forefront of advancing fair housing, leading efforts to address community fair housing issues.
For more information on these key elements, visit www.nar.realtor/fair.
Locally, Columbus REALTORS® and the Columbus Realtist Association are teaming up to sponsor several activities. The Realtist Association is the local board of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, Inc. (NAREB) founded as an equal opportunity and civil rights advocacy organization for African American real estate professionals, consumers, and communities in America.
Below are the upcoming activities:
- Co-host a Live Forum on How Fair is Fair Housing? set for Friday, April 13, 2018, 11a-Noon at Columbus REALTORS®. Checkout page 29 in this issue for more details.
- Participate in the Ohio Association of REALTORS®/Habitat for Humanity project to build the frame of a home for an Ohio family on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 (as the event nears, watch for more information online at ColumbusRealtors.com).
- Develop a training program for members on the Cost of Poverty Experience created by Think Tank, Inc., out of Springfield, Ohio.
- Develop a joint project/mock trial on ethics and fair housing with Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo and representatives from Central Ohio Fair Housing Association. It’s anticipated that this project will be held in September.
What's Next for Fair Housing
Studies show where people live has a direct impact on the quality of their health, education, and access to economic opportunities. Discriminatory housing practices create racial and economic segregation in communities that can lead to disparate outcomes in overall quality of life. Fair housing supports the development of racially and economically diverse communities.
Three important and inter-related aspects of residential housing that have links to health include the physical conditions within homes; conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding homes; and housing affordability, which not only shapes home and neighborhood conditions but also affects the overall ability of families to make healthy choices. Where someone lives effects both their physical and mental wellbeing. Fair housing has a role in fostering healthy people and neighborhoods.
Housing factors that affect education include housing quality, residential stability, affordability, and neighborhood location. Often, children are assigned default public schools based on neighborhood locations. While other options may exist such as out-of-boundary public schools or private schools, a range of factors may prevent parents from choosing these options. The presence of affordable stable housing can support holistic community development, including new or improved schools, tutoring, and strong out-of-school-time programs. Communities with high concentrations of poverty and a history of disinvestment may have less access to the type of housing that can bring about positive change to local schools. Fair housing has a role in creating and expanding educational opportunities.
Neighborhoods are becoming more segregated economically. The number of poor people living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty doubled from three million in 2000 to six million in recent years. At the same time, high-income households have become more likely to live in largely high-income neighborhoods. Housing plays an important role in low-income households’ ability to achieve and maintain the stability necessary to pursue their financial goals and escape poverty. The stability provided by affordable housing can help households secure and maintain employment, increase their savings, and take steps to become self-sufficient. Fair housing has a role in creating neighborhoods that are economically diverse.
How can you help
We ask all members to join us in this commemoration and to stand together with us in recommitting our role as leaders at the forefront of advancing fair housing and efforts to address community fair housing issues.