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The Fair Housing Act turns 50

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in 1968 by Lyndon Johnson. It is formally known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and it was signed roughly a week after Martin Luther King had been assassinated. At that time, many neighborhoods in Michigan and throughout the nation were in many cases segregated. Black Americans were largely restricted as to where they could live by covenants and discriminatory banking rules.

On Jan. 25, a ceremony was held to mark its 50th anniversary at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Speakers and others at the event called to expand the law as well as for efforts to make sure that it remains in place. Such calls are in response to an announcement from the Housing and Urban Development secretary that efforts to protect fair housing would be rolled back.

In a statement, the president of the National Fair Housing Alliance asserted that the FHA was as meaningful today as it was 50 years ago. One of its key achievements was taking race out of decisions made by landlords, realtors and homeowners. As a result, neighborhoods are generally seen as less segregated today than they were in 1970 according to a demographer from the University of Michigan. However, the pace of desegregation has slowed in recent years.

As a general rule, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny people a home or apartment merely based on their race. It may also make it illegal to base housing decisions based on a person’s mental or physical health. Those who believe that they have been discriminated against may want to meet with an attorney to see what recourse they might have.