It is April in the Green Mountain State which signifies not only the start of Spring, but Fair Housing Month. “Fair Housing Month signifies a recommitment to expanding equal access to housing.” (NAR) Every April, Vermont marks the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act being passed with a month of events and continuing education to help promote equity within the world of real estate. Today we’ll talk about Fair Housing Month, the history of the act, what it means in today's society, and ways in which you can get involved.
Let’s start in the past, looking at the history of fair housing. On April 11, 1968, President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act. This was just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is believed to be a direct response by the president to MLK’s death. The act made it illegal to discriminate in the housing market on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. Vermont goes a step further with their protected classes, including marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, victims of abuse, and receipt of public assistance. This was originally a bill, which was under consideration by congress from 1966 to 1967. When the bill passed, it was viewed as a large step towards progress in the Civil Rights Movement.
Flashforward to modern day, discrimination is still an ongoing issue throughout the United States, especially in the housing market. This is why there are continuous efforts being made in several States to help bring us closer to equity in respect to housing. In Vermont specifically, there is an “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing'' done every five years. This analysis is designed to help better identify and understand what remaining issues block fair housing in the state. Since discrimination continues to evolve, efforts to protect citizens against it must progress as well.
You may be wondering what consequences are in place for those who violate the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination is a severe crime, so the punishment must fit the offense. The penalties for violating Fair Housing are designed to deter anyone from attempting to. Your first offense would trigger a $16,000 fine. If the second offense is within five years, you’re looking at a $37,500 fine. If that doesn’t stop someone from breaking the law, maybe the $65,000 fine for a third time offender will do so.
So how can you get involved? Learn about local events or classes in your area about Fair Housing Month and start signing up. If there are no events, you can lead by example and organize one. Events can be anything from a Group Discussion, Open Mic Reading, School Reading Events, or Letter Writing Campaigns to local representatives. If you’re a professional in the real estate industry, there are ample training seminars and learning opportunities specifically designed for realtors, lenders, landlords, and administrators. If you just want to start by learning more about discrimination in the US and the housing market, there are countless online resources. You can start with a viewing of the PBS documentary titled Race: the Power of Illusion. This documentary talks about the history of discrimination in the United States, specifically in the context of racism. A specific episode of the series is titled “The House We Live In” and it takes an in-depth look at the relation between segregation and discrimination in housing. For even more ideas for how to get involved during Fair Housing Month, click here.
“Vermont supports fairness in all housing transactions and strives to be a welcoming place where opportunity is accessible to all those who aspire and where the safety and security of a home is not obstructed by discrimination; and whereas, Vermont is committed to taking affirmative steps to ensure the right to housing choice free of illegal discrimination for all members of our communities.”