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

A Diverse Group of Arlington Renters in a Circle Looking Down at the CameraIn the late 1960s, America was in a state of confusion. The Civil Rights Movement was in progress, and citizens 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 forbade discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was a big achievement for the Civil Rights Movement, and it transformed 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 battle for equality that was going on across the country. That act banned discrimination in public places but did not deal with discrimination in housing. Therefore, numerous black Americans were compelled to live in inadequate 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.”

Recognizing 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 directly prohibit 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 targeted housing inequality by making it illegal to discriminate against renters based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also established the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), which seeks to eradicate 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 quick and comprehensive. It opened up previously segregated neighborhoods to minorities. It also simplified the process for families of all income levels to get safe and affordable housing. The act has been credited with reducing poverty and improving educational outcomes for children residing in low-income households.

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

The Fair Housing Act and You

The Fair Housing Act is one of the most valuable pieces of legislation in American history. It has helped create a more equal and just society by making sure that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing. If you’re a renter in the United States, it’s crucial to be aware of 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 being treated unfairly
  • The right to live in a safe and comfortable housing environment
  • The right to fair treatment throughout the housing search process
  • The right to not be denied housing based on your income

If you think you’ve been discriminated against, you can lodge a complaint with HUD under the FHEO. You can also communicate with a fair housing organization in your area for support.


To best protect your rights, it’s also essential to work with landlords and property managers who understand and follow fair housing laws. Real Property Management MidTown has a long history of commitment to fair housing. Browse our listings online to find excellent rental homes in Arlington.

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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