Fair and open housing for all people is essential for America to continue being the land of opportunity. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 gave the federal government the authority to hold communities accountable to end discriminatory practices and, along with the 14th amendment, to end state-action discrimination. Although this legislation made great inroads in fair housing, the 1968 act did not include all groups in the community, including those that are disabled and/or those with differences of familial status.
So, in 1989 the federal government wrote up legislation on behalf of these individuals and amended the Fair Housing Act to include those community members. Granting these newly protected classes equal access to housing benefits the entire community. People with disabilities contribute to our communities and deserve the same dignity and respect that other residents have. They have the innate right to be integrated into all neighborhoods. These ideals also apply to families with children and single-parent households. Children can greatly enhance the vibrancy and character of a community and, due to their vulnerability, especially need decent housing in quality neighborhoods.
The act could not have been amended any time sooner. Twenty five years ago, we were living in a society that was progressively taking a more inclusionary stance with community members who fall under the amended category. One wonders about the big picture question as to what caused the movement towards inclusion. Was it the legislation that moved us in that direction? Or was it the collective impact of fair housing organizations on our civic leaders? Both efforts were necessary to allow these two groups to become integrated within the community.
When we take a moment to focus on our individual lives, we realize that we have all been impacted by these two groups in one way or another. Indeed, we must continue to promote the open and equal opportunity for these groups to join our community. It is 2014 and we have reached a very important point in fair housing history and community involvement to continue to foster the inclusion of households with children and people with disabilities.
We all come from various backgrounds and are going to be hard-pressed to find a neighborhood composed of only one demography. So in a step to accept the wonderful diversity that our society offers, we should be inclusive of people with disabilities and differing familial status in our community. We have the legislation as members of our society, take a personal stance to be more neighborly to all members of our community.
By Jose O’Campo, Research Assistant at Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance
Photo by Kim Brookes