Four million. That’s the number of instances of housing discrimination that occur every year, according to the National Fair Housing Alliance. And despite the National Fair Housing Act of 1968 giving potential tenants the right to file a fair housing lawsuit in these cases, most occurrences still go unreported.
To underscore the rampant discrimination still occurring more than a half-century after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have teamed up for a social media campaign that is aimed at raising awareness of housing discrimination and highlighting the importance of fair housing across the country.
“It's time to drive discrimination out of housing once and for all and replace it with a welcome and open door to housing everywhere,” says Andrew Nachison, NCRC's Chief Communications & Marketing Officer. “We're challenging everyone with a mobile phone and a social media account to show and tell their story and make this message loud and clear across the nation.”
The history of housing discrimination in the United States is a long and troubled one. Following the abolition of slavery and moving into the Jim Crow era, individuals, as well as federal entities, made it increasingly more difficult for Black Americans to own land or occupy buildings in predominantly white neighborhoods. Even when the Supreme Court stepped in to disrupt these practices, redlining continued.
In 1968 the Fair Housing Act was supposed to signal an end to this bias, prohibiting housing discrimination because of race, color, national origin, or religion. It was then extended to include sex (inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity), disability and familial status. Despite legislation, these instances persist widescale, in different forms.
From lending discrimination at the bank to racial discrimination by landlords, appraisers and homeowners, the practice is well documented—and yet, still not documented enough. That’s why NCRC and HUD are challenging more Americans to speak up. Nachison says they’re even offering prizes to thank some people for participating.
The first component of the NCRC and HUD social media campaign is the #WelcomeME #FairHousingMatters Selfie Challenge that’s calling on people to post a photo or video of themselves in front of or inside their home or anywhere with their house keys, and answer the question, “What does it mean to have a welcoming home free from discrimination?” Participants are encouraged to use the hashtags #WelcomeME and #FairHousingMatters. Those without social media can participate by submitting their photo or video to an online gallery.
“All people deserve to live in housing free from discrimination,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “We applaud NCRC’s efforts to engage the public and celebrate our nation’s fair housing laws.”