On April 11, 1968, the Fair Housing Act was enacted in order to prohibit discriminatory housing practices against protected classes—race, color, religion or national origin—and was amended over the years to include protections for sex, familial status and disability. In April, the Fair Housing Act celebrated its 50th anniversary.
While progress has been made and housing groups continue to enforce fair housing laws, 2017 received nearly 30,000 housing discrimination complaints—a small increase from last year’s numbers, according to the 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report: Making Every Neighborhood a Place of Opportunity, recently released by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). Yet, the NFHA estimates there are many more instances of discrimination that are unaccounted for, totaling 3.7 million annually.
The study found that over half a million housing discrimination complaints have been processed since 1996 (the year the NFHA began collecting data). The three most common types of complaints are related to disability (57 percent), race (19 percent) and family status (9 percent).
Through the help of litigation, over 70,000 multifamily housing units have been made accessible to individuals with disabilities since 1991. The toll of discriminatory practices? A blemish on the real estate industry and its efforts to create equal housing opportunities, as well as nearly $1 billion since 1988 in compensation to victims of mortgage lending discrimination and other fair housing violations, such as redlining.
“This is a pivotal year for fair housing,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the NFHA, in a statement. “As the 2018 Trends Report shows, we must put an end to the many institutionalized barriers that prevent too many families in this country from fair access to housing. We must commit to making every neighborhood a place of opportunity for its residents and to making all communities open to all people, regardless of race, national origin, disability or other protected status. It has been 50 years, and the Fair Housing Act still has not been fully implemented. We cannot build a thriving society as long as our nation is plagued by discrimination, segregation and severe economic inequality.”
While significant hurdles remain—NFHA cites ineffective enforcement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and inefficient distribution of fair housing program resources as problem areas—the National Association of REALTORS® and other housing groups continue to make strides in the effort to maintain equality within the industry.
“Not only is fair housing an important ethical commitment of our members, as outlined in the Code of Ethics, it is critical to our ability to serve our customers, clients and the community,” said Elizabeth Mendenhall, NAR president, in a statement. “We look forward to building upon our work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agency and industry partners to voice support for and further advance inclusive sustainable communities free from discrimination.”
In addition, NAR is partnering with fair housing allies—the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP)—to create initiatives that enforce the commitment to fair housing and property rights and celebrate the passage of the fair housing law, as well as to take the lead to advance fair housing efforts and resolve problems within the community. NAR is providing access to various fair housing flyers, ads and videos within the Commemoration Resources tab at www.FairHousing.realtor.
NAGLREP is currently backing two bills related to Fair Housing and asking for the support of NAR. The first proposes to extend the Fair Housing Act to include a protected class on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while the second reintroduces the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community in housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, employment, credit and jury service.
NAR has included LGBT as a protected class in its Code of Ethics since 2013 and is a staunch supporter of LGBT fair housing rights.
“REALTORS® are proud to lead the way toward greater equality in housing opportunities; in 2016, NAR’s Board of Directors passed policy for the association to support or initiate legislative and regulatory efforts that advance equal housing opportunity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Mendenhall. “As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we urge Congress to adopt legislation and fair housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”