Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on the Financial Services, made the following statement on the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act:
“Today, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which is one of the most important pieces of legislation attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of fighting for equal rights, including equal access to housing. The Fair Housing Act is a landmark law that Congress passed in 1968 to prohibit discrimination in housing, and to require state and local governments and other recipients of federal housing funding to affirmatively further fair housing. This law marked the end of years of government-endorsed discrimination in the housing market wherein local governments enforced racially segregated neighborhoods, and the federal government refused to offer federally backed mortgage insurance under the Federal Housing Administration to minority communities. It also marked the first time that recipients of federal housing funding were required to take proactive steps to address residential segregation.
“However, the enactment of the Fair Housing Act did not mark an end to discrimination in the housing market, and we must continue to be diligent in the fight for equal access and opportunity. For example, we know that minority households were targeted for predatory mortgages in the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis, setting them up to be hit the hardest when the foreclosure crisis effectively wiped out the modest gains in homeownership that had been made by minorities prior to the crisis. In fact, African-American homeownership today is as low as it was when housing discrimination was legal. The resulting racial wealth gap is at crisis proportions, and it is growing. Today, the median net worth of a white family is over 12 times the median net worth of an African-American family, and just under ten times that of a Latino family.
“And unfortunately, the fight to make progress on fair housing has become more challenging under the Trump Administration. Let’s not forget that President Trump himself was sued by the government for serious violations of the Fair Housing Act. Under President Trump’s leadership, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) mandate under the Fair Housing Act was badly undercut when HUD Secretary Ben Carson temporarily halted implementation of the Obama Administration’s AFFH rule. In fact, Secretary Carson once likened the rule to a “failed social experiment.” Secretary Carson has also reportedly proposed to take the words “free from discrimination” out of HUD’s mission statement. He has also reportedly halted several fair housing investigations and sidelined officials working on fair housing enforcement.
“So while it is important to mark the progress we have made since the signing of the Fair Housing Act, we must acknowledge the real challenges that remain ahead. As Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, I am committed to fighting to ensure that all Americans have fair housing choices, and access to housing that is safe, decent and affordable.”