Forty-nine years ago this month, on April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap and family status. This important law also made it unlawful for a housing provider to make, print or publish any statement or advertisement providing for a preference based on these classes.
Every April, people across the United States are encouraged to learn more about their rights and responsibilities under the Act as a part of National Fair Housing Month. This year's theme - "Fair Housing Equals Opportunity"- reminds us that all citizens are entitled to the same fair housing rights when seeking to rent, own, buy or insure a home and they are free to take action if they suspect discrimination.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) is your state agency charged with investigating cases of housing discrimination. Last year alone, the FCHR investigated more than 200 cases where housing discrimination was alleged. Even with the passage of the federal Act and the Florida Fair Housing Act in 1983, discrimination in housing still persists. The top five bases of discrimination are (in order of most to least): disability, race, national origin, familial status and sex
As Executive Director of the Commission, I often have the opportunity to inform people that they have the power to fight housing discrimination. If they feel they have been discriminated against, they should either contact the FCHR, a local fair housing center or the U.S. Housing and Urban Development as the first step in this process. Remember, "Fair Housing Equals Opportunity."
While unlawful discrimination continues to keep many individuals and families from obtaining the housing of their choice, the passage nearly half a century ago of the Fair Housing Act took a giant step forward in addressing this issue.
If you feel you are a victim of housing discrimination, I urge you to contact the FCHR at (850) 488-7082 or visit our website at fchr.state.fl.us/ and allow us the opportunity to assist you.
-Michelle Wilson is the executive director of the Florida Commission on Human Relations