Heading Home is excited to join our local, state and federal partners in celebrating the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark civil rights law signed on April 11, 1968 that made discrimination in housing transactions unlawful. The Fair Housing Act, signed into law by President Johnson, prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, and familial status.
Always progressive, Massachusetts actually passed a fair housing law starting in 1946, more than 20 years before it became Federal Law. Unlike many other states, Massachusetts goes even farther, making discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders illegal – you cannot refuse to rent to an individual or family based solely on the fact that they are a voucher holder. (For more information, you can find out more about rights around rental subsidies HERE.)
Recognizing the importance of housing, Fair Housing laws are designed to prevent not just the refusal of sale or rent to protected classes, but also to limit other discriminatory behaviors like:
- “Steering” or directing a renter or buyer to a particular community based on their race, ancestry, religion or other protected class
- Preventing families with children from renting because of the presence of lead paint
- Placing ads in locations designed to only target preferred groups
While we clearly still have work to do, it’s important to remember to make people aware of their rights, and to ensure that everyone – tenants, homebuyers, landlords and sellers are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
For more information about your fair housing rights, visit FHEO’s website.
Heading Home supports the goals of the Fair Housing Act, and works to support our clients as they move through the rental and homebuying process. We recognize that discrimination, both subtle and flagrant, still exists, and prevents many communities to accessing the housing they deserve. We have made progress, but there is still work to do.
To learn more about the history of housing discrimination, books like The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein or Not in My Neighborhood by Antero Pietila.
Mary Shannon Thomas, LICSW
Clinical Social Worker | Advocate
Senior Director of Programs, Heading Home