Buying & Selling

April 2024: National Fair Housing Month

Could you imagine being told that you can’t purchase a house in an area you like simply because of the color of your skin or the fact that you are an immigrant? What about being denied a mortgage because you are a single mother or are in a wheelchair?

It seems pretty incredible to even consider such things today, but prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, this wasn’t something many people had to imagine. They were actually living that reality. Discrimination wasn’t just common, it was institutionalized. 

It is with these struggles in mind – and the ongoing battle against discrimination in housing and more – that REALTORS® everywhere celebrate April as National Fair Housing Month.

What The Fair Housing Act Changed

The Fair Housing Act, which was part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was born of the widespread social unrest of the 1960s. In the wake of Vietnam and the end of legal segregation, many people were searching for ways to end discrimination altogether. 

Today, (as updated by the Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988), it is now illegal to treat would-be homeowners differently because of their race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disabilities. 

In the past, however, discriminatory practices were prevalent in the housing market. People of color, single women, immigrants, those in minority religions and the disabled frequently experienced such things as:

  • Redlining: This was a discriminatory practice used by banks and insurance companies to deny or limit financial services to certain neighborhoods based purely on their racial composition. Typically, these neighborhoods were predominantly populated by African Americans or other minority groups. The term “redlining” originated from the practice of literally drawing red lines on maps to designate these areas as high-risk for lending – regardless of an individual’s qualifications or creditworthiness. This practice led to disinvestment, declining property values and limited economic opportunities in redlined communities.
  • Steering: This term refers to the practice of guiding or directing prospective homeowners towards (or away from) certain neighborhoods based on their race, religion or other protected characteristics. Real estate agents, for example, would commonly steer their minority clients away from predominantly white neighborhoods and vice versa, perpetuating unofficial segregation and limiting the housing choices for minority groups.
  • Restrictive Covenants: Restrictive covenants were contractual agreements imposed by property developers, homeowners’ associations and owners that restricted the sale or rental of certain properties to people of specific races or religions. For example, a deed might contain language prohibiting the sale of the property to non-white individuals or anybody who was Jewish. While the Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that restrictive covenants were unenforceable, they continued to be used informally, and their legacy persisted in maintaining segregated housing patterns.

Ultimately, the Fair Housing Act is about making sure that people are free to go where they want to go and live where they want to live – and everything that entails. The “separate-but-equal” policies of the past made it easier for discrimination of all kinds to happen. They locked people of color and others in impoverished areas, where educational and employment opportunities were limited. It also prevented many from building the kind of generational wealth that would help their children and grandchildren have easier lives.

The Struggle Against Housing Discrimination Is Not Over

Unfortunately, housing discrimination is not as far in the past as many would hope or like to believe. In 2022, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) recorded 33,007 complaints of housing discrimination – the highest number on record since NFHA started keeping track. 

The targets of housing discrimination have changed, however, somewhat with time. Would-be homeowners and renters who have disabilities now account for more than 53% of the complaints, although discrimination based on race, sex and familial status remains highly problematic.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand your rights. It is illegal for sellers, landlords, mortgage lenders and others to do any of the following based on your protected characteristics:

  • Refuse to rent or sell to you or deny you a mortgage when you’re qualified in all ways
  • Put conditions on a sale or rental that do not apply to others who do not share your protected characteristics, such as increasing your security deposit or interest rate
  • Appraise a property differently (higher or lower) than they would for someone of another ethnic background
  • Advertise limitations or preferences regarding would-be buyers or tenants (such as ads that say “No young children” or the more subtle “Perfect for young professionals”)
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled tenant, such as refusing to permit them to have a service animal, like a seeing-eye dog 

It’s also illegal for anybody to try to intimidate or coerce property sellers, buyers, landlords or tenants for exercising their rights under the Fair Housing Act. For example, a property owner cannot be told that they cannot show their home to Black buyers because their neighbors want the area to remain “White.”

Fair Housing Is Your Right – And It’s Our Privilege to Help You Find A Home

At Talk to Tucker, our REALTORS® support the idea that every person – no matter their race, disabilities, gender, religion or family composition – deserves an equal opportunity to obtain the financing and housing they want, without fear of discrimination. 

We go out of our way to make dreams possible and proudly welcome clients from all walks of life. When commemorating Fair Housing Month, we not only reflect on past struggles and achievements but also recommit ourselves to the ongoing pursuit of fair and equitable housing for all.