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The History of the Fair Housing Act: How it Changed the Face of American Living

A Diverse Group of Springfield Renters in a Circle Looking Down at the CameraIn the late 1960s, America was in a state of transition. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and individuals were fighting for equality across all walks of life. This included the right to fair housing. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. This act barred discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was a major achievement for the Civil Rights Movement, and it reshaped the face of American living forever. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history of the Fair Housing Act and its effects on American renters.

Civil Rights and Fair Housing

The Fair Housing Act was a direct response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the campaign for equality that was happening across the country. That act outlawed discrimination in public places but did not discuss discrimination in housing. Therefore, numerous black Americans were compelled to reside in terrible housing conditions. The Kerner Commission, studying the civil disorders and causes of riots in US Cities in 1967, wrote, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

Considering that the federal government had a responsibility to address housing inequality, Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and Representative John Conyers of Michigan sponsored an act that would officially ban housing discrimination. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress on April 11, 1968, and was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on the same day.

The Fair Housing Act tackled housing inequality by making it illegal to discriminate against renters based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also formed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), which strives to abolish housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity, and achieve diverse, inclusive communities.  FHEO is also responsible for enforcing the act.

The Impact of Fair Housing

The effects of the Fair Housing Act were immediate and far-reaching. It opened up previously segregated neighborhoods to minorities. It also made it easier for families of all income levels to find safe and affordable housing. The act has been credited with reducing poverty and improving educational outcomes for children living in low-income households.

The Fair Housing Act has been amended several times since it was originally passed. The latest amendment, passed in 1988, expanded the definition of “family” to include unmarried couples and people with disabilities. It also improved the enforcement provisions of the act.

The Fair Housing Act and You

The Fair Housing Act is one of the most critical pieces of legislation in American history. It has assisted in the creation of a more equal and just society by guaranteeing that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing. If you’re a renter in the United States, you must learn your rights under the Fair Housing Act. Some of the rights the Fair Housing Act protects include:

  • The right to choose a housing option without bias
  • The right to dwell in a safe and acceptable housing environment
  • The right to fair treatment during the housing search process
  • The right to not be denied housing based on your income

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, you have the right to submit a complaint with HUD under the FHEO. You might also seek assistance from a fair housing organization in your area.


To best protect your rights, it’s also vital to work with landlords and property managers who recognize and follow fair housing laws. Real Property Management Bay State West has a long history of commitment to fair housing. Browse our listings online to locate excellent rental homes in Springfield.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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