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Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy Helps Today's Home Buyers

It was the early 1980’s. Hubby & I were signing paperwork to buy our first home, an older home built in the 1950’s. He dropped a stack of papers, and whispered “we can’t buy this house”!

WHAT????? Like a slap in the face, in black & white on the neighborhood Restrictions “...No person of African, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese or Mongolian descent shall be allowed to lease, use or occupy this property… “.

We called our mortgage guy and the title company rep. They both gave us the same answer. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 overturned these restrictions. We went ahead and signed the documents & moved into our first home. The experience left us feeling unsettled, to say the least.

Nowadays, a clear statement of Fair Housing Laws is posted as page 1 of any neighborhood restrictions. When homebuyers review the pile of documents, the laws are right up front. It’s a reminder of how far or society has come.

So, how did Dr. King’s legacy become so far reaching?

Although the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, insuring voting rights, the Fair Housing Act was languishing in Congress for a number of years. Dr. King met with various Congresspersons to advocate for passing the bill. Although many Vietnam Veterans & spouses were eligible under the GI Bill for home loans, many were prohibited from buying homes due to these “neighborhood restrictions”. Didn’t matter whether they could afford the payments or not. Mortgage lenders also discriminated against people of color, as well. Refusing to lend in certain neighborhoods, for no reason other than the race of the occupants. This argument started to get some attention, but no real action.

Until. After Dr. King was assassinated, President Johnson quickly convinced Congress to do the right thing. They quickly passed the Fair Housing Act. The original Act prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex and family status. In 1988, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act Amendment, increasing protections for handicap/disability status and families with children. California (followed by other States) later added LGBTQ protections, as well.

Here’s a link to a good article on the history of the Fair Housing Act:

Dr. King's Birthplace - now a National Park. Click on the photo for a link to the National Park website.

Take a few moments to reflect on Dr. King, how his tireless campaigning for equal rights led to so many protections that benefit people of all races and backgrounds so many years after his death.

As a Realtor, I believe in, and am proud to display the Equal Housing Opportunity Logo.

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