What’s Next: Improving Access to Opportunity

Keeping the promise of the Fair Housing Act

By HOM Editor

Fair Housing Opportunity Group

We understand where people live has a direct impact on the quality of their health, education, and access to economic opportunities. Discriminatory housing practices create racial and economic segregation in communities that can lead to disparate outcomes in overall quality of life.

It is clear that the National Association of REALTORS®, local REALTOR® associations and REALTOR® members across the country have the opportunity—and responsibility—to increase efforts to support diversity and inclusivity in the real estate market. Fair housing supports the development of racially and economically diverse communities, based on three important factors:

1. HEALTH: Where someone lives affects both their physical and mental wellbeing. Three important and inter-related aspects of residential housing that have links to health include the physical conditions within homes; conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding homes; and housing affordability, which not only shapes home and neighborhood conditions but also affects the overall ability of families to make healthy choices. Fair housing has a role in fostering healthy people and neighborhoods.

2. EDUCATION: Housing factors that affect education include housing quality, residential stability, affordability, and neighborhood location. Often, children are assigned default public schools based on neighborhood locations. While other options may exist such as out-of-boundary public schools or private schools, a range of factors may prevent parents from choosing these options. The presence of affordable stable housing can support holistic community development, including new or improved schools, tutoring, and strong out-of-school-time programs. Communities with high concentrations of poverty and a history of disinvestment may have less access to the type of housing that can bring about positive change to local schools. Fair housing has a role in creating and expanding educational opportunities.

3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Neighborhoods are becoming more segregated economically. The number of poor people living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty doubled in 2000 to 6 million in recent years. At the same time, high-income households have become more likely to live in largely high-income neighborhoods. Housing plays an important role in low-income households’ ability to achieve and maintain the stability necessary to pursue their financial goals and escape poverty. The stability provided by affordable housing can help households secure and maintain employment, increase their savings, and take steps to become self-sufficient. Fair housing has a role in creating neighborhoods that are economically diverse.

New challenges for today. It’s been reported that 50% of the LGBTQ population lives in states that do not prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 28 states currently do not have housing non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and 3 states have laws preventing the passage or enforcement of local non-discrimination laws. These laws protect LGBTQ people from being unfairly evicted, denied housing, or refused the ability to rent or buy housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

What can you do? Redouble your efforts to understand fair housing laws and how your actions and words impact housing choice. Engage in community dialogue about the issues tied to housing choices, like schools, healthy communities, residential displacement and economic opportunity. And if you see discrimination, challenge it. Report it. Be informed, and take action to expand protections to groups who continue to experience discrimination, such as the LGBTQ community. By protecting the rights to housing—free from discrimination for ALL people—the Fair Housing Act preserves and advances opportunities for everyone. As the REALTOR® community, let’s take ownership of fair housing rights and uphold the promise of the Fair Housing Act.


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