In the United States, the fair housing (also open housing) policies date largely from the 1960s. Originally, the terms fair housing and open housing came from a political movement of the time to outlaw discrimination in the rental or purchase of homes and a broad range of other housing-
The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Law of 1968 is to protect the dwelling seeker from seller or landlord discrimination. It does this by protecting the buyer's or renter's right to discriminate. The goal is a unitary housing market in which a person's background (as opposed to financial resources) does not arbitrarily restrict access. Calls for open housing were issued early in the twentieth century, but it was not until after World War II that concerted efforts to achieve it were undertaken.
While the Civil Rights Act of 1866 included language that could be construed as creating a fair housing policy, no federal enforcement provisions were given. In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants in real estate were unenforceable in court. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also addressed the issue, but made few provisions for enforcement.
The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) introduced meaningful federal enforcement mechanisms. It outlawed:
· Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion or national origin.
· Discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in the terms, conditions or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
· Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
· Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person's enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.
When the Fair Housing Act was first enacted, it prohibited discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. In 1974, sex was added to the list of protected classes, and in 1988, disability and familial status (the presence or anticipated presence of children under 18 in a household) were added (further codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). In certain circumstances, the law allows limited exceptions for discrimination based on sex, religion, or familial status.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development is the federal executive department with the statutory authority to administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has delegated fair housing enforcement and compliance activities to HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) and HUD's Office of General Counsel. FHEO is one of the United States' largest federal civil rights agencies. It has a staff of more than 600 people located in 54 offices around the United States. As of 2007, the current head of FHEO is Assistant Secretary Kim Kendrick, confirmed October 7, 2005.
Individuals who believe they have experienced housing discrimination can file a complaint with FHEO at no charge. FHEO funds and has working agreements with many state and local governmental agencies where "substantially equivalent" fair housing laws are in place. Under these agreements, FHEO refers complaints to the state or locality where the alleged incident occurred, and those agencies investigate and process the case instead of FHEO. This is known as FHEO's Fair Housing Assistance Program (or "FHAP").
There is also a network of private, non-
Victims of housing discrimination need not go through HUD or any other governmental agency to pursue their rights, however. The Fair Housing Act confers jurisdiction to hear cases on federal district courts. The United States Department of Justice also has jurisdiction to file cases on behalf of the United States where there is a pattern and practice of discrimination or where HUD has found discrimination in a case and either party elects to go to federal court instead of continuing in the HUD administrative process.
The Fair Housing Act applies to landlords renting or leasing space in their primary residence only if the residence contains living quarters occupied or intended to be occupied by three or more other families living independently of each other, such as an owner-