50 years of opening doors and providing quality housing –
By Patricia Beech –
Fifty years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson took action to protect every American’s right to housing by signing the Fair Housing Act into law.
Congress passed the Fair Housing Act (which was designed as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964) on April 11, 1968, one week after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.
The new law applied to housing and related activities, including apartment and home rentals, real estate sales, mortgage lending, and homeowners’ insurance. The act was also instrumental in driving the formation of the Cabinet Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Additionally the act guaranteed housing opportunities for all regardless of race, religion, or national origin. Gender was added as a protected class in 1974, and people with disabilities and families with children were included in 1988.
According to Holly Johnson, Director of Adams County’s Economic Development office, the Fair Housing Act and it’s many ancillary programs, like the Adams County Housing Impact and Preservation Program (CHIP) have been critical to the process of providing quality housing for Adams County residents.
“CHIP is more than a government program in Adams County,” said Johnson in an email to the Defender. “To many, it is a lifeline offering assistance with home improvements to low and moderate income households.”
Johnson said the Adams County CHIP team operates with the full support of the county’s Board of Commissioners, and is committed to promoting quality housing for county residents.
“With $400,000 awarded for a two-year period, the Adams County CHIP team has proven, since 2003, to be very good stewards of these federal dollars,” she said.
The CHIP program focus on two activities: Owner Rehabilitation, which focuses on correcting substandard conditions so that owner-occupied homes are safe, healthy, durable, energy efficient and affordable, and Owner Repair, which is designed to correct one or more specific deficiencies that adversely affect the occupant’s health and safety and/or the house’s structural integrity.
Johnson said funding qualification and priority is determined by the program guidelines, which include household income, the priority rating of the home, the housing need, and the availability of funds.
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) also joined organizations across the country in recognizing April as National Fair Housing Month and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. “The month of April is a time to reflect on our nation’s history and to celebrate the advancement of equal access to housing,” says Sean Thomas, Executive Director of OHFA. “As the state’s leader in affordable housing, we remain committed to providing quality housing, free of discrimination, to Ohioans.”Actions deemed unlawful under the Fair Housing Act include refusing to sell or rent housing, making housing unavailable, setting different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling, providing different housing services or facilities and falsely denying that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson reflected on the Fair Housing Act in a statement released on Monday: “It was a seminal moment in our country’s history when the ideals of equality and fairness were embodied in a law that continues to shape our communities and our neighborhoods 50 years later,” he said, adding, “The promises of the Fair Housing Act require our constant vigilance to confront housing discrimination in all its forms and to advance fairness on behalf of those seeking their American dream.”