CB CaresHome Buyer ResourcesHome Seller ResourcesHomeowner Resources February 6, 2024

The History of Fair Housing

Celebrating 55 Years of Fair Housing

This month, we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. For much of American history, discriminatory housing practices were widely accepted and even part of the law in some states. Through the tireless efforts of many advocacy groups over decades, those practices were made illegal on April 11, 1968.


What is the Fair Housing Act?

The landmark civil rights law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson outlawed discrimination in housing transactions. The Fair Housing Act made it unlawful to discriminate in housing due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and family status. A 2017 court ruling added sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.


Why is the Fair Housing Act important?

Before the law was signed, renting or buying property was difficult for many people of color. Homeowners’ organizations worked with realtors and local governments to keep communities segregated. Supreme Court decisions made it illegal to exclude African Americans and other minorities from living in certain areas. But still, those practices occurred in the late 1960s, and any who challenged them were met with resistance and even violence.


Many African American and Hispanic men fought and died in the Vietnam War. Their families at home struggled to obtain homes due to their race. Additionally, the GI Bill, which in part guaranteed returning military service members a mortgage, was structured to deny African Americans and other minorities the ability to access those supports.


How did it become law?

For two years, Congress considered passing the bill but failed to get enough votes each time. During one of the debates, Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first African American Senator elected by popular vote, fair housing advocate, and co-sponsor of the bill, told his own story. He shared how he returned from fighting in World War II and struggled to find housing for his family due to his race.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and it was then that President Johnson was able to get enough support to pass the bill in Congress. It was signed into law one week after Dr. King’s death. Johnson said at the time that “fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life.” 


What housing is covered by fair housing laws?

Fair housing laws cover most housing, including apartments, single-family homes, condominiums, and manufactured homes.


 Which housing providers are subject to fair housing laws?

• Real estate operators, brokers, and agents

• Multiple listing services/real estate-related organizations

• Builders, contractors, and developers

• Owners of building lots

• Condominium associations

• Homeowners advertising and selling their homes

• Savings & Loans associations, banks, mortgage brokers, other financial institutions, and appraisers

• Owners of investment properties

• Rental managers/leasing agents

• Advertising media, advertising agencies, and marketing companies

• Insurance companies that sell homeowners or renters insurance


Where can you find local fair housing resources?

Examples of Housing Discrimination

Fair Housing and Related Laws

File a Complaint