WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2015 – In recognition of National Fair Housing Month and the 47th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) reflects on the significant progress the nation has made toward housing opportunity since the landmark Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. However, this anniversary is also a critical time to reaffirm our commitment to realizing of open, inclusive communities and access to opportunity for all, particularly in light of recent challenges to the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act, passed by Congress in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of great legislative achievements of the era. It prohibits discrimination in the financing, rental or sale of any lodging based on race, color, religion, or national. Amendments to the Act have extended coverage to prohibit discrimination based on sex, disability, or familial status.
In January, the Supreme Court heard arguments that challenge a key feature of the Act, the disparate impact standard. With the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the civil rights and fair housing community stress the importance of protecting the vitality of the basic principles of racial equality. “Fair Housing Month is a time to remember how far we have come and how far we still have to go in the struggle for inclusive communities,” said Joe Rich, Co-Director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee. “Continued enforcement of the Fair Housing Act through the use of the disparate impact standard is essential component of our efforts in furtherance of that dream.”
In addition to submitting an amicus curiae brief in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, the Lawyers’ Committee Fair Housing & Community Development Project is actively litigating multiple affronts to equitable housing opportunity in New York.
The legacy of our country’s unconscionable history of systematic housing discrimination manifests itself anywhere racial disparities exist. From the wealth gap, to life expectancy, to educational opportunities, to unemployment and more, every metric of well-being and opportunity is defined by zip code. These blatant inequities make it abundantly clear that the battle for fair housing has not yet been won.
The Fair Housing & Community Development Project will continue to work tirelessly to continue to fight discrimination in housing through enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and will continue its effort to preserve disparate impact liability as a vital tool for realizing the promise of inclusive communities, meaningful fair housing choice, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.