As our nation celebrates the 49th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, HUD’s efforts to further fair housing continue. While we observe Fair Housing Month this April, we are constantly renewing our commitment to our nation’s founding principles and civil rights laws.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 goes to the heart of Americans’ daily lives by ensuring equal protection under the law is reflected in our nation’s housing.
HUD’s new Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, echoed the same belief shortly after taking office. At his first meeting with staff, Secretary Carson said: “Everything that we do, every policy… will reflect complete fairness for everybody. Because that is what the founders of this nation had in mind, and if you read the Constitution, it becomes very clear that that was the goal.”
That is why HUD, local communities, fair housing advocates, and fair housing organizations across the country mark Fair Housing Month by hosting activities that enhance awareness of the latest in housing rights, HUD’s fair housing enforcement efforts, and the importance of ending housing discrimination.
Protected classes from housing discrimination include race, color, religion, sex, national origin and disability. And since 1988, the Fair Housing Act also prohibits housing discrimination against families with children under the age of 18, known as familial status discrimination. The authors of the amendment that added familial status as a protection under the Fair Housing Act described families as “perhaps the most fundamental social institution of our society.”
Every person is connected to a family structure.
Discrimination against families includes charging different prices, imposing additional fees, or establishing different rules because a family has children. Expectant families, whether it’s pregnant women or couples in the process of adopting a baby, are also included.
As with other prohibited discrimination, some of the familial status discrimination we see can be attributed to not enough knowledge. One study conducted by HUD showed that fewer than half of the general public knows that familial status discrimination is against the law.
That is a core mission of Fair Housing Month – awareness.
During HUD’s Fair Housing Month opening event on April 4th, Secretary Carson said: “Ignorance and meanness are frequently the things behind unfairness… We find it everywhere and those are things we need to work on if we want to have fairness. That’s going to be key. The other key is empowering people. What is the best way to empower people? Education.”
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity will continue working hard to spread awareness and educate families and communities about their fair housing rights. Through an array of enforcement activities, fair housing policy initiatives, and education and outreach efforts, we are taking appropriate action against individuals and housing providers that discriminate, implementing rules and guidance that further fair housing, and educating the public about their fair housing rights and what to do if they believe those rights have been violated.
The role of fair housing efforts is as relevant and important today as ever. This month, and every day, we must commit ourselves to promoting housing policies and practices that enhance opportunity for everyone, and every family.