• 1. The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 as a way to quell the riots that broke out in 125 cities after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

The Fair Housing Act was regularly considered by Congress from 1966-67, but never received enough votes to pass. Many Americans were opposed to the bill, believing that housing was a personal transaction and therefore the government should not interfere. White people also were afraid that integrated neighborhoods would reduce their property values.

After the assassination of Dr. King on April 4th, 1968, riots broke out in the streets of 125 cities across the United States. President Johnson urged the speedy approval of the bill prior to Dr. King’s funeral as a way to quell the riots and as a response to the outcry of protesting Americans calling for a response to ongoing racial injustice. Congress passed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968. It passed the Senate 71-21 and passed the House 250-152. President Johnson said it was the most important act he signed as president.

This was the last piece of major Civil Rights legislation to pass. It was also the most difficult piece of civil rights legislation to pass Congress, more difficult than the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Fair Housing was originally slated to be part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however because northerners still supported segregated neighborhoods, it was dropped from the ’64 Civil Rights Act because the Act would not have had enough support to pass.

The 1968 law prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, or national origin. For the first time, it added civil penalties for violators of the law.

2. Fair Housing law is different from landlord-tenant law. Landlord-tenant law details the rights and duties of landlords and tenants. Fair housing laws protect people from being discriminated against based on protected classes, such as race and national origin. FHCO provides education and advocacy related to fair housing law, not landlord-tenant law. However, there are times where fair housing laws intersect with landlord-tenant issues.

While landlord-tenant laws broadly govern landlord and tenant relations, the Fair Housing Act is a piece of civil rights legislation that protects the rights of all based on protected classes. It governs not only landlords, but realtors, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and homeowner associations.

Here is some common vocabulary we use at FHCO:

            • Civil rights legislation = laws passed to protect the rights of citizens based on protected classes
            • Protected classes = a group of people that qualify for special protection by law. Federally protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status (families with children under 18), and disability. Everyone is a member of one or more protected classes. We are all protected from discrimination.
            • Different treatment based on protected class = people being treated differently based on a protected class, such as their race

      Here are a couple examples of illegal discrimination in housing:

      • Two people – one white and one black – apply for apartments in the same building and move in on the same day. Both applicants meet the income, credit score, and other rental criteria. The white applicant receives a move-in special for $500 off their first month of rent. The black applicant is never told about the move-in special.

      • An applicant with an assistance animal, prescribed for a disability, applies to an apartment that has a no pet policy and asks for a reasonable accommodation to allow the assistance animal to live with them. The landlord denies the applicant based on their assistance animal and cites the no pet policy, even though an assistance animal is not a pet.


      • 3. Federally protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

      The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, color, religion or national origin. The Act was amended in 1974 – during the women’s rights movement — to include sex, which includes sexual harassment. It was amended again in 1988 to include familial status (families with children under age 18) and people with disabilities.

      Oregon’s first fair housing law was passed in 1959, prior to the Federal Fair Housing Act. The law made it illegal for anyone in the property business to refuse to sell, lease or rent to a purchaser solely because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

      Over the years, the state of Oregon has added additional protections for Oregonians, including adding the protected classes of marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors. Local jurisdictions sometimes have additional protected classes. For a detailed list visit:https://fhco.org/index.php/discrimination-in-oregon/protected-classes