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Celebrating 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act

April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act being signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This historic act occurred just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Act reads” It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States”. These few simple sentences paved the way for people to legally be able to choose where they wanted to live and has served as the basis for making many forms of housing discrimination illegal.

The original Act, passed in 1968, prohibited discrimination based on race, color religion and national origin. In 1974 it was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex. Since then, the Act has been expanded to include familial status, handicap, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to these federally protected classes, Illinois also includes ancestry, age (over 40 specifically), marital status, citizenship status, order of protection status, sexual orientation-gender identity, unfavorable discharge from military service, pregnancy and arrest record.

This legislation has made it illegal to discriminate against anyone in a protected class when it comes to housing. This law applies to renting as well as purchasing housing. It is also illegal to refuse to rent to someone because of discrimination and the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD has very stiff penalties for violations. You can be fined up to $16,000 for a first offense and upwards of $100,000 for additional offenses. These violations are extremely serious and the government has zero tolerance for such discrimination.

As a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Illinois Realtor organization, Realtors are held to a very high standard when it comes to fair housing. It is the position of these organizations that where people live has a direct impact on their health, education and economic opportunities. Fair housing is essential in promoting healthy people, neighborhoods and economies and Realtors play an important part in promoting fair housing. NAR has an agreement with HUD to promote fair housing and educate our members about the rights and obligations of all people under the Fair Housing Act. As President Johnson said when he signed the Fair Housing Act into law 50 years ago “It proclaims that fair housing for all- all human beings who live in this country- is now a part of the American way of life.”

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