April is National Fair Housing Month

Patricia Hafermann Benefit Specialist

April represents the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act.

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

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 moved into new, expanding, and segregated suburbs. Most non-white Americans weren’t as fortunate; even with the money and desire to live in relative luxury, racial covenants, exclusionary banking practices, and local ordinances limited their housing options.

There had been many protests to end these legal forms of discrimination and many individuals and civil rights leaders worked tirelessly to get the laws changed to end housing discrimination. One of the most prominent of these leaders was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since the 1966 open housing marches in Chicago, Dr. King’s name had been closely associated with the fair housing legislation.

From 1966-1967, Congress regularly considered the fair housing bill, but failed to pass it. However, when Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson utilized this national tragedy to urge for the bill’s speedy Congressional approval. Precisely seven days after Dr. King was assassinated, President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act originally prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin, but Congress later amended it to also prohibit discrimination based on gender, people with disabilities, and families with children.

The Fair Housing Act outlaws:

• Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin;

• Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling;

• Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, disability or national origin; and

• Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person’s enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.

In honor of the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and in remembrance of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that occurred in April of 1968, April has traditionally been set aside as National Fair Housing Month.

If you have any additional questions, you may call Pat Hafermann, Elderly Benefits Specialist with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (920) 467-4076.

Sources: Published with permission from the Legal Services Team at the Greater Wisconsin

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