Celebrate Fair Housing Month with history
Updated: Apr 6
April 11, 2023, marks the 55th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the federal Fair Housing Act that banned discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing nationwide. Congress passed the act shortly following the tragic assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 of that year. Many people credit organizing by Dr. King and his allies in Chicago in 1966 as laying the groundwork for what would later become this landmark federal act.
As it exists today, this federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. The federal prohibition against sex discrimination has been interpreted by the courts to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Across the Country, people gather honor the passage of these important protections by celebrating April as Fair Housing Month.
This year, PCHTF has been proud to partner with numerous others to encourage local proclamations honoring this anniversary. In addition to Polk County, the cities of Des Moines, Ankeny, West Des Moines and Urbandale all are lifting up April, 2023, as fair housing month.
The choice of these cities was intentional. Under Iowa’s own Civil Rights Act, these are the cities in our region that have their own civil or human rights commissions, made up of local volunteers who help provide training, education, and support to prevent discrimination locally. We honor the service of these volunteers in our community.
Similar to the federal law, the Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, and familial status. Iowa has a proud civil rights history that stretches back as far as examples like an initial civil rights law passed in 1884.Protections to Iowans have been revised and extended multiple times since.
Today, education, training and advocacy about fair housing remains an important priority for PCHTF and our people in across our communities to ensure the intent of these important laws is carried out. That is why the Trust Fund is supporting free public education for property owners and managers on Fair Housing law at our Landlord Forum event April 18.
Looking deeper, the Polk County Housing Trust Fund has produced a detailed history of discriminatory practices in our community that made these laws necessary. Our Redlining in Des Moines online experience is available at www.redliningindsm.com.
Iowans who feel they have experienced discrimination in housing may seek assistance (if Des Moines residents) from the City of Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Department or elsewhere from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
While our community still has work to do to ensure housing opportunity for every person and family, looking back on this history reminds us that progress has been made. By renewing our commitment to fair housing practices, we are investing in our community’s future.