The Fair Housing Act Makes Us Stronger: Commemorating 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act

While the mobile home wasn’t Lavon’s first choice, it was the closest place to rent near his son and daughter’s school.  It also was walking distance to everyone’s job, which was a necessity once their only car died. After four requests for the same application and eight “re-checks” of his credit, Lavon began to think the color of his skin made a difference in where he could live.  

Olivia and her husband were denied a home loan because Olivia was on Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) maternity leave. Although she had a high-paying job to return to in 60 days, in the eyes of her potential lender, she was unemployed.

After six calls back to a landlord, Martin gave up on the perfect apartment for his family. The landlord didn’t seem interested in Martin’s high-paying job or good rental history once he learned about Martin’s adult son with disabilities who was in his household. 

When Sam applied for university housing his freshman year, he was told he would need to “work around” his requests for reasonable accommodations to meet his disability, if he wanted to live on campus. 

Jessica, age 8, was excited to look at a new home in a subdivision close to her best friend, Layla. It had a playground, community pool, and a small park. She didn’t understand why the real estate agent steered them away from Layla’s neighborhood to one where the Realtor thought her family would be happier.

Housing and neighborhoods shape our futures, the futures of our children, and provide us with either opportunities or disincentives for educational attainment, good-paying jobs, and vocations that become careers. This month, we celebrate and honor the work to ensure that Lavon, Olivia, Martin, Sam, Jessica, and so many others like them have a safe, affordable home of their choice

April 2018 is a milestone for the landmark Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act), signed by President Lyndon Johnson, which turns 50 this month. Passed by Congress in 1968, just days after the assassination of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Fair Housing Act seeks to provide freedom of housing choice to all Americans—protecting homebuyers and renters—from discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability.

FairHousing50Years.jpg
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

On February 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prohibited discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status regarding housing programs assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Fair Housing means that all people have equal access to housing of their choice, which they can afford. The Fair Housing Act ensures equal access to:

  • Apartment and home rentals
  • Mortgage lending
  • Real Estate sales
  • Homeowners insurance

Early Support of Fair Housing in Kentucky

In the late 1960s, Mae Street Kidd—a courageous civic leader known as the “Champion of Affordable Housing”— led Kentucky to become the first state in the south to adopt statewide open-housing laws.

Kidd was an innovative woman of mixed race who identified as an African American. Elected to Kentucky’s House of Representatives in 1968, Kidd proposed landmark legislation that impacted open-housing laws and created Kentucky Housing Corporation in 1972. House Bill 27, which created affordable housing opportunities in Kentucky, was officially designated as the “Mae Street Kidd Act.” 

Representative Mae Street Kidd seated at the Kentucky State Legislature

Mae Street Kidd fought for the people—particularly for those less fortunate and minorities—for human rights and social justice. Her service in the legislature until 1984, helped make significant strides to provide Kentuckians with housing needs. She passed away October 20, 1999, at the age of 95.

People have told me they like me because I will fight for what I believe. It is true that I am a fighter, but I fight fairly.
— Representative Mae Street Kidd

Fair Housing in Kentucky Today

Today, there are still significant strides to be made in fair housing practices before housing discrimination is eliminated. A recent national study of fair housing trends determined that most fair housing complaints occur in the rental market and are due to an issue regarding disability or accessibility (1).  

In Kentucky, not only rental clients are impacted. Loans are often denied in certain neighborhoods because of socioeconomic characteristics rather than physical, design, or structural characteristics. According to a 2018 report, Kept Out, discrimination in lending to African Americans and Latinos continues through denial of conventional mortgage loans (2). 

This often happens through the practice known as redlining, a system for evaluating risks associated with loans made in specific neighborhoods, placing neighborhoods into one of four categories based on quality, or level of worthiness for investment (3).

According to a report by Redevelopment Strategies in Louisville, Kentucky, the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), created in 1933 to aid housing marketing during the Great Depression, developed residential securities maps—or redlining maps—to guide investments in cities across the United States. Color-coded maps were assigned four classifications: Green, “A”; Blue, “B”; Yellow, “C”; and Red, “D” to indicate their desirability for investment. The “Red” classification, the least desirable investment area, is the origin of the term “redlining.” Modern-day redlining persists. Comparing redlined areas with current data on mortgage denials, homeownership rate, property values, vacant and abandoned properties, poverty development trends, and where people live by categories such as race, reveal that areas redlined in 1937 are still impacted and disinvested (4).

Work must continue to educate communities and stakeholders on fair housing and, specifically, the concept of “redlining” practices, so we better understand the adverse impacts. Only then can we continue our work to overcome historical and present-day forms of housing discrimination.

Affordable housing administered fairly makes us stronger; it opens doors. This month, reaffirm your commitment to fair housing by joining others in celebration of 50 years of progress in fair housing. 

Training Opportunities in Kentucky

The Lexington Fair Housing Council (LFHC) has planned several events around the state of Kentucky to honor April as National Fair Housing Month. Attend trainings and learn how to become involved in your community.

Revitalization vs. Gentrification Discussion at the Louisville Urban League Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Free Fair Housing Luncheon and Training Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Kentucky Fair Housing Conference Thursday, April 26, 2018

What can your community do to promote housing choice freedom?

Learn more about Fair Housing at www.hud.gov.

Kentucky Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights –
Fair Housing Enforcement in Kentucky

Lexington Fair Housing Council – www.lexingtonfairhousing.com

Louisville Human Rights Commission – www.LouisvilleKY.gov


Endnotes:

1 The Case for Fair Housing:  2017 Fair Housing Trends Report – (National Fair Housing Alliance)

2 Kept Out: For People of Color, Banks are Shutting the Door to Homeownership – (Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Report)

3 Making Louisville Home for Us All, a 20-Year Action Plan for Fair Housing – (Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission)

4 Redevelopment Strategies, Louisville Forward, Redlining Louisville Project Presentation at Kentucky Housing Corporation’s Housing Policy Advisory Committee Meeting