Housing discrimination and segregation are linked to every major issue affecting individuals and families nationwide, including access to quality housing, health care, education, healthy foods, a clean environment, mainstream credit and more.
This month marks 50 years since the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act, which passed one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act was the last piece of the civil rights legislative package. Now, half a century later, it’s important to mark the advances that have been made in combating housing discrimination and segregation, while also acknowledging the real challenges that remain ahead.
Although the Fair Housing Act does a great service to Dr. King’s legacy, discrimination still heavily persists in this country. More than four million fair housing violations occur each year against people of all protected classes.
In fact, African-American homeownership today is as low as it was when housing discrimination was legal. The resulting racial wealth gap is at crisis levels and it is growing. Today, the median net worth of a white family is over 12 times the median net worth of an African-American family, and just under 10 times that of a Latino family. According to the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, 84 new fair housing investigations were opened in 2017. That’s an increase of 106 percent.
It’s time be serious about fair housing. This means pushing for stronger enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, so that everyone has equal and fair access to housing and all neighborhoods are places of opportunity. Housing discrimination and segregation are the foundational cause of most other injustices still facing minority communities. We cannot rest until this is fully addressed by government at all levels, business and industry, foundations and community-based institutions.