In 1974, Congress amended the Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, to include prohibition of housing discrimination on the basis of sex. Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968 to prohibit discrimination in the sale and rental of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion.
Senator Bill Brock (R-TN) introduced S. 1604, the Fair Housing Opportunity Act, on April 17, 1973 to amend the Fair Housing Act by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in the sale or rental of housing. The bill had 15 Republican and 14 Democratic cosponsors. The bill was folded into the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, at Title VIII, Section 808(b).
The intent of the bill was to challenge the way landlords and other housing providers used stereotypes to make it difficult for women to obtain housing. Senator Brock stated, “the assumption that men could perform these [homeownership] tasks while women could not is just the sort of discrimination based on sex that we are talking about.” The amendment to the Fair Housing Act meant that it would be illegal for landlords, lenders, real estate agents, and others providing housing to impose different terms and conditions on women than on men.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 added “handicapped” and “familial status” (families with children) to the list of protected classes, along with sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
In recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has focused on challenging sexual harassment in housing. Women, particularly those who are poor and with limited housing options, often have little recourse but to tolerate sexual harassment or risk having their families removed from their homes. DOJ’s enforcement program is aimed at landlords who create an untenable living environment by demanding sexual favors from tenants or by creating a sexually hostile environment for them. In addition, pricing discrimination in mortgage lending may also adversely affect women, particularly minority women. This type of discrimination is unlawful under both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Today, HUD continues to work to end all housing discrimination. Although neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are specifically protected under the Fair Housing Act, HUD issued a regulation on February 3, 2012 explicitly stating that eligibility determinations for HUD-assisted or -insured housing must be made without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status (see Memo, 2/3/13).
“The Fair Housing Act: 35 Years of Evolution,” Tracey McCartney and Sara Pratt, April 1, 2003, Tennessee Housing Outlook, Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2003, http://bit.ly/1orXzD8.
The U.S. Department of Justice, http://1.usa.gov/UWozPI.
Congress.gov provides a brief summary of S. 1604 and lists cosponsors at http://1.usa.gov/1zNkayd.
NLIHC is recognizing its 40th anniversary throughout 2014, culminating in a commemorative event on Monday, November 17 in Washington, DC. Please save the date.