History of the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VIII) and expanded on previous Acts to prohibit discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, family status, and (as amended) handicap.

Congress had regularly considered the fair housing bill for several years but never secured a majority vote for its passage until the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, which prompted President Johnson to urge prompt and speedy Congressional approval.

Historically, the Vietnam War also contributed to the passage of the Fair Housing Act as the growing casualty list of returning infantrymen fell heavily on young and poor African-American and Hispanic men whose families could not purchase or rent homes in certain residential neighborhoods due to their race or national origin.

As a result, several organizations like the NAACP, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the National Committee Against Housing Discrimination, and the GI Forum lobbied the House and Senate to pass the Fair Housing Act and remedy these inequities in the housing industry.

In April of 1969, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) celebrated the Fair Housing Act’s first anniversary by issuing the Title VIII Field Operations Handbook and establishing a formalized complaint process to enforce compliance with the Act.

This celebration spread across the nation as advocates and politicians issued proclamations declaring April as "Fair Housing Month" and schools across the country sponsored poster and essay contests that addressed fair housing issues.

In 1972, HUD, along with the National Association of Homebuilders, the National Association of Realtors, and the American Advertising Council, adopted fair housing as a theme to promote the fair housing message in neighborhoods, industrial centers, agrarian regions, and urban cores to promote April as Fair Housing Month.

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