Thursday, April 19, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Caroline Peattie, Executive Director, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
(415) 483-7552 / email@example.com
Looking Back 50 Years to Chart the Future: Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California convenes forum highlighting 50th anniversary of Fair Housing Act's passage to inform how past accomplishments can help with future challenges
Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This piece of legislation had been filibustered in the Senate by segregationists until the Kerner Commission released its reports that civil unrest was due to the existence of "two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal." This galvanized the Senate to pass the bill, but the House did not follow suit until after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and seven days of civil unrest followed.
Walter Mondale's New York Times Op-Ed piece was published on the day of the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and clearly charts the political events that led to the passage of the Act, as well as the intent of the Act. "The act has survived long enough to witness a curious debate over its intent," he writes. "Some scholars have suggested that its functions can be divided into "anti-discrimination" and "integration," with the two goals working at cross purposes. At times, critics suggest the law's integration aims should be sidelined in favor of colorblind enforcement measures that stamp out racial discrimination but do not serve the larger purpose of defeating systemic segregation. To the law's drafters, these ideas were not in conflict. The law was informed by the history of segregation, in which individual discrimination was a manifestation of a wider societal rift."
The main purpose of the Act, the co-author of the civil rights bill maintains, was to create integrated communities, and intended to accomplish this in private markets by making housing discrimination illegal in the sale, rental, or advertising of housing, and through the federal bureaucracy, by requiring government agencies to administer their programs in a manner that "affirmatively furthers fair housing."
Although many today are surprised to learn this fact, one of the strongest proponents of the Act and of integration was Republican George Romney, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who had the following response to one township's contention that progress was being made and forced integration was unnecessary and even resented: "The youth of this nation, the minorities of this nation, the discriminated of this nation are not going to wait for 'nature to take its course.' What is really at issue here is responsibility - moral responsibility." (Charles M. Lamb,Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960, pp. 85-93.)
It was not until 2015 that HUD promulgated its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule laying out very clear guidelines on how federal agencies would be expected to ensure that federal funds would be used to further fair housing. Nevertheless, the concept of furthering fair housing and integrating communities was inherent in the Fair Housing Act, a mandate that grew out of an understanding that this country must counter decades of institutionalized racism and discrimination that led to the segregation we see today, locally and nationally. Richard Rothstein's book, The Color of Law - A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, acknowledges the collective amnesia that has allowed for continued neighborhood segregation in municipalities and has led to social strife across the country. View Richard Rothstein's talk at a local 2016 conference on this topic, here.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California celebrates the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act next Wednesday, April 25, looking at the history of the Act, its successes and shortcomings, and how best to chart a path forward. The event will bring together fair housing and tenant advocates, lenders, real estate agents and developers, housing providers, city and county staff, elected officials, and community members. The conference commemorating the historic event will feature speakers and panelists from Marin, the Bay Area, California, and the east coast to make it a profound event, particularly against the backdrop of the state of civil rights in our country today and the current administration.
The two plenary sessions in the morning (titled "California: The Frontline in the War to Integrate America's Cities"and "The Fair Housing Act at 50 - Where do we go from here?" respectively) will lay the foundation for the panels in the afternoon:
For Tenants: Tenant Rights and Protections - This session will unpack housing-related bills recently passed as well as what is on the horizon, and how they apply locally; and how various organizing groups can work together to effect change.
For Housing Developers, Realtors, Lenders: Sustainable Homeownership Among Low-to-Moderate Income and Minority Borrowers - This session will focus on policies that foster inclusive communities and best practices for transparency and responsible borrowing and lending.
Gentrification and Displacement - This panel will address issues of racial equity and land preservation, how policies and institutions limit mobility and equity-building, and other issues.
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing - Looking at our local history and how policies affecting access to transportation, education, and affordable housing shaped the segregated living patterns we see today, panelists will suggest tools to further fair housing, particularly related to supporting affordable housing, public schools, and transportation policies that will begin to reverse patterns of segregation and lack of access.
Strengthening housing advocacy through alliance building - This panel will address how to have difficult conversations about housing in our neighborhoods by debunking myths, stereotypes and misinformation that often lead to fear and exclusion.
People interested in more information and registration can visit http://bit.ly/FHANCConference2018.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
is a non-profit organization serving several Bay Area counties that provides free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California also offers foreclosure prevention services, pre-purchase education, seminars to help housing providers fully understand fair housing law, and education programs for tenants and the community at large. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency. The mission of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is to ensure equal housing opportunity and to educate the community on the value of diversity in our neighborhoods.
Please call Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California at (415) 457-5025 or TDD: (800) 735-2922 for more information.