Fair Housing

The month of May is Fair Housing Month. This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the enactment of the Federal Fair Housing Law, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It is a good time to reflect on how fortunate we are in our country and celebrate the success of equal opportunity in owning and renting homes. There was a time when just having the financial ability to buy a home , or afford an apartment, could be derailed by unfair discrimination against a person for arbitrary reasons. The Fair Housing Law succeeded in eliminating many varied forms of housing discrimination. Refinements, changes and amendments along the way have expanded it more fully so that the ability to own, or rent a property is now based on a person's ability to pay, not any other subjective criteria.

While most of us link fair housing with discrimination against a race or religion, there have been many other variations of discrimination that have also been eliminated. When I first became a licensed Realtor in 1974, a woman of child bearing age was not allowed to use her income to qualify for a loan to buy a home, regardless of her actual plans or intent regarding her career. There was a time when, if you and your buddy wanted to make an investment, pool your funds and buy a property to live in, it wasn't possible. Or, heaven forbid, a single person, or a single parent wanted to own a home. There was a time when, if you went to rent an apartment and had a child you would be told, sorry - no children.

When the restriction was removed and a woman's income was able to be included in loan qualifications, it was a double-edged sword in that the housing prices here in the bay area doubled from the previous year, because there was more income available to put toward housing expenses. This is offset by the long-lasting positive results in which a single woman or man; or a single parent, can buy the housing they can afford without having to fight a battle over their sex or familial status. Now the only limitation for a person who wishes to buy or rent a property, with possible the exception of pets, and/or smoking, are their financial qualifications.

From 1987 to 1993, I taught the orientation for the incoming, new Realtors of the Pacifica-Half Moon Bay Association of Realtors. One of the items I reviewed in the orientation was the Code of Ethics for the National Association of Realtors. Over those years prohibition of discrimination against Race, Color and Creed were expanded and grew to include National Origin, Sex, Familial Status and Handicapped persons.

Today we take so much of this for granted. Work and energy is still needed to promote fair housing. The National Association of Realtors recently partnered with several minority-based housing groups to launch the HOPE Awards (Home Ownership Participation for Everyone), a national program developed to promote minority homeownership. Home ownership helps keep our economy strong and our communities healthy. The more ways we find for all people to enjoy the benefits of home ownership, the more we all benefit.