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The month of April is dedicated to recognizing the Fair Housing Act of 1968. During this month, The Department of Housing and Urban Development along with other governmental entities and housing-focused groups hold events, panels, and seminars to help educate the public about fair housing, and rights Massachusetts residents have while searching for a home or rental. The goal of this month is to emphasize the importance of equal access to fair housing. This year’s theme is “More Than Just Words” and is a push for equity housing policies and equal access to all for housing.

To kick off Fair Housing Month, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is providing some background on the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, according to the United States Department of Justice, “prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners’ insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.” There are six different protected categories under this act, but what does this protection really mean?

Discrimination of housing based on race was a core incentive for the creation of the Act, and this type of housing discrimination is still prevalent today. These types of discriminatory actions arise through the spreading of false information concerning housing availability or leading potential homebuyers to specific areas based on their racial makeup.

In terms of housing discrimination based on religion, the Act protects against “overt discrimination against members of a particular religion” and against actions like zoning ordinances designed to curb private homes as places of worship.

The Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination based on sex, focusing on sexual harassment. Meaning it protects renters from landlords demanding sexual favors or creating sexually hostile environments.

The Act safeguards against discrimination based on national origin, by protecting against prejudice based on the country someone was born in or where their ancestors came from. In the housing market, this style of inequity is seen through “stringent underwriting standards on loans or when individuals make loans on less favorable terms” for specific borrowers based on their heritage.

Familial status is protected by the Act, through its emphasis that families with children will not be prohibited housing. It also protects these families from having additional conditions placed on them by housing providers that would infringe on their right to housing.

Lastly, the Fair Housing Act protects those with disabilities from housing discrimination. The Act’s focus of protection, in this area, ensures that zoning and land regulations are not restricting different types of housing arrangements like group homes. It also enforces that newly constructed multifamily housing be built with The Fair Housing Acts accessibility requirements.

The Fair Housing Act offers many protections for both renters and homeowners. To learn more Fair Housing Month, check out the Department of Housing and Urban Developments page for Fair Housing events.

If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development online or by calling (800) 669 – 9777 (voice) or (800) 877 – 8339 (relay). To learn more about Massachusetts Fair Housing Law or file a civil complaint visit mass.gov/fair-housing.

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