Enforcing 1968's Fair Housing Act

In July of 2015, the Obama administration put regulations in place to enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The civil rights era law was enacted to protect people seeking housing and prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or the presence of children. Though the law has been in place for nearly 50 years, it hasn't been as effective as it was meant to be.

The act included provisions that cities not only prevent discrimination but that they use federal housing funds to actively reduce segregation by neighborhood. The new rule requires them to specify how the federal funds are being used to accomplish the latter. If they fail, they could face penalties. For most local governments, the new rule will mean minor changes, or as little as more reporting, if they're already following the rules. In the past, they were expected to self-police, and decide on their own if they were meeting the requirements. For a few places, like Westchester County in New York, the new regulation will make things tougher. They have been in a battle with the federal government for years, resisting desegregation or trying to avoid unfair penalties, depending on which side you're on. 

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What do you need to know if you're a landlord?

The new rule probably won't change anything for you, unless you're interested in investing in housing that could help desegregate neighborhoods. (Hey, it might be a good time to consider it, especially in a location where not enough Section 8 housing is available. Many landlords have found that providing Section 8 housing is a good choice for their bottom line.) As far as existing properties go, you should continue to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Housing Act.