A Half Century of Fair Housing for a Better New York

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, a landmark achievement designed to desegregate American housing and put an end to housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Act outlawed the denial of housing to an individual based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality when it was established in 1968.

The passage of the Fair Housing Act is an achievement worth celebrating. It serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come as a nation to create legal protections for all people from discrimination. Its passage, a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., remains a high-water mark of Civil Rights Era that helped propel America into a new age.

Here in New York, The Real Estate Board of New York’s Code of Ethics and various educational courses highlight the importance of compliance with the Fair Housing Act.

Our Broker Counsel, Neil B. Garfinkel, regularly offers Fair Housing trainings in conjunction with the REBNY Legal Line, a daily legal hotline provided exclusively for our residential members. REBNY is committed to creating a more equitable New York City and we commend our members for continuing the tradition of non-discrimination in housing.

But that does not mean that there is still not work yet to be done. In fact, many neighborhoods in New York City, as a result of historic trends, still struggle from the segregation this legislation aims to fix. Over 80 percent of black or white New Yorkers would have to relocate to a new neighborhood in order to achieve wide racial distribution, according to a recent report by City Council Member Brad Lander. The report’s findings underscore how much there is left to accomplish.

Furthermore, where we live matters. Research demonstrates that children who grow up in an integrated community have a better chance of graduating from high school, attending college, earning a higher income and passing that wealth onto the next generation than those who grow up in more segregated communities. In other words: these trends have impacts far beyond those that we see in front of us every day.

Continuing to strive for a deeper implementation of the Fair Housing Act and a more desegregated city impacts decisions on both a macro and micro stage.  It needs to inform the housing policies put forward by our public officials so that each neighborhood is doing its share to increase affordability and access and reduce segregation.  Similarly co-op and condominium boards, as well as management companies, who are involved in determining who will get to purchase available units, need to be scrupulous in their adherence to the Fair Housing Act.  

Fortunately, New York has made significant strides over the past half-century – but we must not stop moving forward.  As we reflect on fifty years since the establishment of the Fair Housing Act, the Real Estate Board of New York is proud to continue to work for a better and more equitable New York.