The Civil Rights Act of 1968, (Pub.L. 90–284, 82 Stat. 73, enacted April 11, 1968), also known as the Fair Housing Act, is a landmark part of legislation in the United States that provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, religion, or national origin and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Act was signed into law during the King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had previously signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law.
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is commonly known as the Fair Housing Act and was meant as a follow‑up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited discrimination in housing, there were no federal enforcement provisions. The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender; since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children.
Victims of discrimination may use both the 1968 act and the 1866 act via section 1983 to seek redress. The 1968 act provides for federal solutions while the 1866 act provides for private solutions (i.e., civil suits).
Titles II through VII comprised the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, which applies to the Native American tribes of the United States and makes many, but not all, of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights applicable within the tribes (that Act appears today in Title 25, sections 1301 to 1303 of the United States Code).
A rider attached to the bill makes it a felony to "travel in interstate commerce...with the intent to incite, promote, encourage, participate in and carry on a riot". This provision has been criticized for "equating organized political protest with organized violence".
One impetus for the law's passage came from the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement. Also influential was the 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act in California, which had been backed by the NAACP and CORE. and the 1967 Milwaukee fair housing campaigns led by James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council. Senator Walter Mondale advocated for the bill in Congress, but noted that over successive years, a federal fair housing bill was the most filibusted legislation in US history. It was opposed by most Northern and Southern senators, as well as the National Association of Real Estate Boards. A proposed "Civil Rights Act of 1966" collapsed completely because of its fair housing provision. Mondale commented that:
Two developments revived the bill. The Kerner Commission report on the 1967 ghetto riots strongly recommended "a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law", and was cited regularly by congress members arguing for the legislation. The final breakthrough came with the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil unrest across the country following King's death. On April 5, Johnson wrote a letter to the United States House of Representatives urging passage of the Fair Housing Act. The Rules Committee, "jolted by the repeated civil disturbances virtually outside its door," finally ended its hearings on April 8. With newly urgent attention from legislative director Joseph Califano and Democratic Speaker of the House John McCormack, the bill (which was previously stalled) passed the House by a wide margin on April 10.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited the following forms of discrimination:
In 1988 Congress voted to weaken the ability of plaintiffs to prosecute cases of discriminatory treatment in housing. But the Fair Housing Act was also amended in 1988 to allow plaintiffs' attorneys to recover attorney's fees. Additionally, the 1988 amendment added people with disabilities and families with children to the classes covered by the Act.
In the early 1990s, in Trouillon v. City of Hawthorne, the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) successfully challenged an urban renewal plan on the basis of race discrimination by bringing suit under the Fair Housing Act. Previous litigation under the Act had largely been limited to discrimination in buying or renting housing.
Although he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Davis nevertheless disputed the allegations of discrimination. He said he based his ruling in part on the city's failure to prove that the area had a higher crime rate and lower property values than other parts of the city. The city "did not act in bad faith or fraudulently", Davis wrote. It "did not discriminate against any minority or low or moderate income person and did not violate any person's Due Process, Equal Protection or other Civil Rights".
Only certain kinds of discrimination are covered by fair housing laws. Landlords are not required by law to rent to any tenant who applies for a property. Landlords can select tenants based on objective business criteria, such as the applicant's ability to pay the rent and take care of the property. Landlords can lawfully discriminate against tenants with bad credit histories or low incomes, and (except in some areas) do not have to rent to tenants who will be receiving Section 8 vouchers. Landlords must be consistent in the screening, treat tenants who are inside and outside the protected classes in the same manner, and should document any legitimate business reason for not renting to a prospective tenant. As of 2010, no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is provided, but these protections do exist in some localities.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has stated that buyers and renters may discriminate and may request real estate agents representing them to limit home searches to parameters that are discriminatory. The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Act is to protect the buyer's (and renter's) right to seek a dwelling anywhere they choose. It protects the buyer's right to discriminate by prohibiting certain discriminatory acts by sellers, landlords, and real estate agents.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 defines housing discrimination as the “refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his race, color, religion, or national origin”. Title VIII of this Act is commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, the disabled and families with children were added to this list. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charged with administering and enforcing this law.
Social steering is a form of housing discrimination that involves housing authorities, real estate companies and even local governments steering certain groups of people, often minorities, into certain areas of a city. According to Realestateagent.com, it is “directing a particular race to a certain neighborhood and away from others. An example is a real estate broker steering a black family away from a white neighborhood”. Some types of housing projects can be taken as examples of steering.
Often housing projects concentrate poor minorities into a few buildings or blocks, concentrating the population and isolating them from most of the city. Often the areas where the steering tends to concentrate certain groups of people lack city resources that other parts of the city may have. For example, in Los Angeles, the "ghetto" is not wired into key information circuits like the rest of the city such as education and cultural media.
In the 1950s, governments across America took initiatives to destroy so-called slums and ghettos of the cities, and put up housing projects in place. These multistory, high-density projects were where whites began to push blacks who were dislocated by destruction of slums, also heavily avoided by the white population. Despite the Fair Housing Act, which included cases like Gautreaux and Shannon which prohibited placing projects exclusively in black neighborhoods, the trend did not end.
Social steering can also be outside the economic institutions of real-estate a government policy decisions to build projects. Often the people living in a neighborhood may not be so friendly to people moving in that are different from them. For example, in 1985 an interracial couple moved into an all-white neighborhood in Philadelphia. Upon arrival there was an angry mob waving torches and protesting the arrival of a person of color. The attitudes of people in certain neighborhoods therefore can also contribute to the segregation and steering of people of certain backgrounds.
Before the Fair Housing Act many minorities were met with blatantly racist objects of deterrence such as signs in the neighborhood or at real estate companies explicitly saying they do not accept certain minorities. However, after the Fair Housing Act, steering took on the role of a subtle fashion, where realtors deceive and lie making it harder to learn about or rent/buy homes in certain neighborhoods. The minorities are guided or “steered” into neighborhoods with certain characteristics of economics and race.
A Cleveland study revealed that 10% of companies in the 1970s practiced racial steering. As recently as 2006 there was an investigation of a real estate company in Chicago, where African-American and white testers attempted to buy condominiums. White testers were shown many more properties—around 36—while the African American testers only got to see on average 7. This led to the Coldwell Banker vs. Illinois Attorney General (2006) case.
Another Detroit study showed that whites were rarely shown homes in non-white neighborhoods unless they asked to see them. There are numerous cases and studies done that show the more subtle end of racial and social steering after the Fair Housing Act. On the average, 50% of the time African-Americans are discriminated against when searching for housing.
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Redlining is related to steering because it is denying financial support and services to neighborhoods based on race, ethnicity, or economic status. Rather than subtly steering individual families towards certain areas or only giving them information on certain racial areas, redlining was a blatant but legally tolerated criterion for financial institutions to decide where to invest. Originating in the New Deal, this procedure was a protocol for deciding where federal, state and city funds would go for financial services. Affluent middle- and upper-middle-class white areas were outlined in green on a map, meaning that financial services were clear to be rendered and these areas were desirable for investment. Racial areas, specifically African-American neighborhoods, were outlined in red, meaning they were undesirable neighborhood whose denizens were poor and racially mixed. These maps were used by banking institutions to construct guidelines for lending money. As a consequence, many of these redlined areas, which were also typically located in urban environments as whites tended to move out to the suburbs of America, experienced deterioration on a rapid scale. Since these areas have been neglected and redlined and cannot receive funds from banks to revitalize, they cannot attract businesses, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. The poverty often leads to crime, and neighborhoods become further neglected because they continue to be unattractive to outside investment, and continue to be redlined by banks. Thus private banks and financial institutions as well as the U.S. government are accused of being responsible for these practices in several instances, which before the Fair Housing Act were widespread and blatant throughout the United States. Redlining is still practiced today on a more subtle level. Instead of having official maps circulated to institutions, which is illegal, the public domain may tend to ignore poor neighborhoods by denying basic public services.
Nancy A. Denton and Douglass S. Massey devised a segregation index to measure the degree of segregation of African-Americans and whites according to income levels. Their objective was to show that the discrimination of African Americans when it comes to housing was not related to income level, which many thought to be true. Many have argued that continuing segregation is due to African Americans generally making less money, which means they cannot afford to live in the same neighborhoods as affluent whites. But as the segregation index by Denton and Massey showed, blacks still remained highly segregated from whites no matter what the income level was. For example, in 1980, black families earning $25,000 a year or less had an index level of 86 while those earning $50,000 or more had an index level of 83. This trend was common throughout most major metropolitan areas, especially prevalent in the northern cities. The goal of this index was to show that upward economic mobility did not affect the level of segregation in America’s cities. It should be noted that Denton and Massey also surveyed Hispanics and Asians, and found on average the indices to be 64 which meant the poorest Hispanics and Asians were still less segregated than the most affluent blacks. Leslie Carr notes that in 1990, 74 percent of whites live in suburbs, while most African Americans and Hispanics live in urban areas, and that African Americans were a majority population in 14 cities (with populations over 100,000). The purpose of this study was to show that housing practices are indeed racially and not economically discriminatory.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under the Fair Housing Act; federal law in general does not protect gays and lesbians or other sexual minorities (transgender or transsexual) against discrimination in private housing. There are twenty two states that have passed laws prohibiting discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The states that have passed fair housing laws in regards to both sexual orientation and gender identity are:[when?] California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington State. In addition to the states above, the following three states prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation only: New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin. Additionally, Austin, Texas has passed a law making discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal.
In 2012, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued a regulation to prohibit LGBT discrimination in federally assisted housing programs. The new regulations ensure that the Department's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
There are an estimated 2 million cases of housing discrimination each year according to HUD. The National Fair Housing Alliance, the largest fair housing non-profit in the country, estimates that number to be closer to 4 million per year, excluding instances of discrimination due to disability or familial status. The actual number of Fair Housing Act violations is likely much higher than 4 million annually. However, between the years of 1989 and 1992 only 17 of these went to court nationwide. Redlining is still a major problem despite the legislation passed making it illegal. Studies and investigations have shown that minorities who apply for mortgages are rejected 3 times as much as Caucasians. According to one Federal Reserve Board study, among higher income applicants, the denial rates were as follows:
Housing projects have also come under fire by researchers and NGOs alike. Housing advocates Elizabeth Julian and Michael Daniel state:
in addition to the inequality in the actual housing provided to low-income African-American families under the federal programs, the neighborhoods in which they receive assistance are usually subject to various adverse conditions not found in the neighborhoods surrounding the housing units in which whites receive the same assistance. These conditions include inferior city-provided facilities and services, little or no new or newer residential housing, large numbers of seriously substandard structures, noxious environmental conditions, substandard or completely absent neighborhood service facilities, high crime rates, inadequate access to job centers, and little or no investment of new capital in the area by public and private entities.
Thus, this discrimination goes beyond being poor because white housing projects receive more attention and public investment, making housing discrimination overall a racial problem.
Although several legal measures have been taken to protect all kinds of people against housing discrimination in the U.S., still the most commonly targeted and largest victims are African-Americans.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 also enacted 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2), which permits federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin"  because of the victim's attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public place/facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court or voting.
Persons violating this law face a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If bodily injury results or if such acts of intimidation involve the use of firearms, explosives or fire, individuals can receive prison terms of up to 10 years, while crimes involving kidnapping, sexual assault, or murder can be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
Though sexual orientation and gender identity are also excluded from this law, they are included in a more recent Federal hate-crime law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
We should pass the Fair Housing law when the Congress convenes next week.