Former President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, signing fair housing into law.
“Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again,” Johnson said as he signed the bill. “It proclaims that fair housing for all, all human beings who live in this country, is now part of the American way of life.”
Now, as the 50th anniversary approaches, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to remember the day with a ceremony in Washington D.C.
As April is fair housing month, HUD is already thinking about the act's passage and its importance to the department. HUD Secretary Ben Carson explained that, half a century later, the act remains a centerpiece of the work HUD is doing to ensure fair, inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans.
“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,” Carson said. “But 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.”
Today @POTUS officially declared April 2018 as Fair Housing Month and renewed the country’s commitment to equality in housing. This year is especially historic as @HUDgov commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. #FairHousingis50 pic.twitter.com/pFfjzDugmS— Ben Carson (@SecretaryCarson) March 30, 2018
But this topic is not without its controversies as many Democrats have accused Carson of rolling back enforcement on fair housing practices. Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., did just that in reference to a report by The New York Times that that administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws.
Ben Carson is rolling back enforcement of fair housing practices. This is deeply alarming. There is real systemic racism and classism in our housing system. We must address it. No one should ever be denied housing because of their race or income status. https://t.co/awxwCM5tFy— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 30, 2018
Last month, HUD came under fire when it began its attempts to change the department’s mission statement to a shorter statement it claimed was "more clear and concise":
HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.
This proposed statement would take out, among other things, the part of the statement which talks about HUD’s commitment to fair housing. But Carson denied it meant any changes to the agency, saying, “the notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense.”
The Fair Housing Act sought to end residential segregation and ensure all Americans had access to safe and decent housing, HUD explained. The act originally prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on color, race, national origin and religion. Later, the act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex, disability and familial status.