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On This Date: LBJ Signed the Fair Housing Act

by Countable | 4.11.18

On April 11, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 — better known as the Fair Housing Act — into law, which prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on a person’s race, religion, or national origin. On the 50th anniversary of its enactment, we’ve chronicled the history of the Fair Housing Act below.

Why was it needed?

The Fair Housing Act was intended to build on the momentum generated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which banned discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin. Housing discrimination had technically been prohibited since the Reconstruction-era Civil Rights Act of 1866, but no mechanisms for the federal government to enforce the law existed as it only provided for civil remedies.

Earlier attempts at enacting fair housing legislation in the 1960s failed, including a comprehensive civil rights bill proposed by Senator Walter Mondale’s (D-MN) in 1966. Following the “Long, hot summer of 1967” which saw the eruption of race riots across the U.S. that led to more than 2,000 injuries and 11,000 arrests, the Kerner Commission was established to investigate the causes of the riots. It recommended investments in housing programs with the aim of reducing segregation, which it found worsened racial tensions and contributed to violence in urban areas.

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 riots broke out across the country. Congress felt a renewed sense of urgency on the matter and at the behest of President Johnson sent the Fair Housing Act to his desk on April 10. The Senate had passed an amended version of the bill less than a month prior after the House passed an initial version in August 1967.

What did it do?

The Fair Housing Act explicitly prohibited several types of discrimination, including:

  • The refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his/her race, color, religion, or national origin.
  • Discriminating against a person 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.

The legislation does allow for some types of discrimination by landlords that are based on objective business criteria. So for example, landlords can choose tenants based on their ability to pay rent or maintain the property, or discriminate against applicants with low incomes or bad credit histories. Such discrimination is only allowed if landlords are consistent in their screenings, treat tenants in the same manner regardless of whether they’re in a protected class, and document legitimate business reasons for not renting to a prospective tenant.

What has its impact been?

The Fair Housing Act has been amended several times since its enactment to expand protections from housing discrimination to more protected classes. In 1974 language protecting individuals based on their sex, while people with disabilities and families with children were covered by a 1988 amendment.

Housing discrimination is still a problem in the U.S., and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal agency responsible for investigating cases initally. In the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, HUD completed work on 3,577 fair housing cases — 40 percent of which were charged, settled, or referred to the Justice Dept. for prosecution.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton - White House Press Office / Public Domain)

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(30)
  • Richard
    04/11/2018
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    And as soon as Republicans get a chance, they'll repeal it because they're all a bunch of jackholes with no sense of common decency whatsoever.

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  • BeStrong
    04/12/2018
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    And today, Ben Carson is in charge of Fair Housing. SMH 🤦‍♀️

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  • NoHedges
    04/12/2018
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    i seriously doubt we will see any social good legislation coming out of this administration.

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  • RAnthony
    04/11/2018
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    Proof that this bill failed at its job? Homeless people in every city in the United States. We need a new approach to this problem, and it is not what most people think. Every American should earn a monthly stipend simply for being an American (every human on the planet should get a stipend, but we'll stick to the US for now) an amount large enough to make survival possible. Large enough to make children assets worthy of protection, rather than exploitable liabilities. Large enough to feed house and clothe everyone. Only then will we know the true cost of maintaining an egalatarian (?) society. A humanist society.

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  • MinnesotaMom
    04/12/2018
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    When my friend's husband left her she was shaken, so when she had to find a smaller place I came along for moral support. I was shocked at the way landlords & rental managers talked to her & the questions they asked. I had never been talked to that way in all the years I'd rented apartments in the same city. But I was a white woman and she was a woman of color. I can only imagine what they might have said without me standing right there. Carson has removed the anti discrimination language from his agency's mandate, the quisling! If you are white you can use your privilege to help people of color when they have to deal with white supremacist institutions just by being present. Even better if you are willing to say something.

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  • James
    04/11/2018
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    The civil Rights Act was not psssed in 68 but in 65! Do your homework!! Lost Democrats voted against it and all Republicans voted for it! Do your research! Do your damned research! The civil Rights Act created Welfare and Food Stamps! Before that 75% of Black Fathers lived in the home with their wives and children too! After that for some reason it changed! Now 75% of African American households have No Father involved! LBJ NEVER did a Damned thing for this country except screw our armed forces and over ride Our generals’ decisions in Vietnam! Rot in Hell!!

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  • KansasTamale
    04/11/2018
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    What a wonderful bill & its impact has been less than it could have been due to those wanting to keep others down. UNTIL THE TRUMP BUNCH GOT THEIR HANDS ON IT & NOW ITS A SHAM & A DISGRACE. CARSON IS AS MUCH AN IDIOT AS TRUMP AND BUYING a $31,000 dining set for his office. THINK HOW MANY PEOPLE HE CIULD HAVE HELPED WITH THAT MONEY !!!

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  • Justin
    04/12/2018
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    Many of the homeless in this country are homeless because they suffer from a lack of adaquate healthcare for their mental health needs, and trouble with addiction.

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  • Herve
    04/12/2018
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    That’s the Fair Housing Act the Donald Trump was found guilty and fined for violating... twice.

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  • RickEberhardt
    04/11/2018
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    The fact that there are homeless people in this country says nothing about the success or failure of this act. A monthly stipend would be a waste and just cause everything to rise in cost and increase the national debt. If you’re so concerned for the homeless, let one or two move into your house. When they ask for a stipend, slip them a $20. It will be like have another child or two.

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  • Dara
    04/12/2018
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    Discrimination should be addressed and prosecuted every time it is discovered.

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  • Dan
    04/12/2018
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    Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. Five years later, Donald Trump and his father were sued for years of racial discrimination against African Americans who wanted to lease Trump apartment properties. Trump has never apologized for that, and under Ben Carson’s HUD, such insidious discrimination persists today. #NFHA

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  • Jimane
    04/24/2018
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    It did more arm than good.

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  • ThinkingWoman
    04/12/2018
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    Two separate items: 1 - Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 https://www.justice.gov/crt/title-vi-1964-civil-rights-act 2 - Fair Housing Act https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-2

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  • Hunter
    04/12/2018
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    Some would argue it did more harm than good

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  • Hiro9
    04/12/2018
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    45 & Carson are about as anti-fair housing as you can get.

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  • Stickyfingers
    04/11/2018
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    LBJ was a great President. He did a lot of good but unfortunately he’s always overshadowed by Vietnam.

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  • John
    04/11/2018
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    A great act. I’m a little dismayed at the instant condemnation of all Republicans as having this act in their cross hairs. That kind of language and attitude helps no one. It takes what should be a matter of common decency and turns it into cannon-fodder for the party debate.

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  • Robert
    04/11/2018
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    Wonder if trump will try to repeal it?

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  • Azrael
    04/11/2018
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    And the republicans have been trying to tear it up every day since

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