The Fair Housing Act Today: Current Context and Challenges at 50
As is true for most legislation, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) was a product of its time; the legislation’s content, and even passage, was formed by dominant issues in housing markets and the country at that time. The context shaped the goals of the FHA and the strategies and tools employed under its auspices. Fifty years after the passage of the FHA, much of that context has changed. This commentary argues that changes in the context not only raise new fair housing challenges and create new gaps in our knowledge, but also may necessitate a fresh look at fair housing strategies and tools if they are to be effective at achieving the goals of the act. This commentary begins with a brief background on the FHA itself, the social context at the time of its writing, and its main goals. Next it lays out a few key changes in housing markets relevant for fair housing, highlighting challenges they may create and where research could be of greatest value. It then considers challenges arising from threats to two specific U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fair housing rules seen by many as critical fair housing tools. The commentary ends with two examples of a “refresh,” where current context has shaped, or reshaped, a strategy to address today’s fair housing challenges.