The Fair Housing Act – A Look Back as We Move Forward

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Editor's Note: The next MHCO Management Training Seminar is three weeks away - June 13th in Medford.  We are very excited to be welcoming Bjorn Hess as our one of MHCO's newest members who will also be presenting at MHCO's training seminar on June 13th.  Bjorn Hessis a founding member and partner of the law firm Hazen, Hess & Ott, PLLC of Camas, WA. He is licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon. In addition, Bjorn is an owner of Sterling Properties Real Estate Services, a property management company based in Vancouver, WA / Lake Oswego, OR. After completing his Doctor of Jurisprudence and Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, Bjorn returned to the Pacific Northwest where focuses his practice on landlord tenant law and serves as Chief of Operations at Sterling Properties Real Estate Services. Bjorn’s passions include traveling abroad to experience different cultures, skiing, cycling, and pheasant hunting with his chocolate labrador Kona (who can often be found at his office). He is a volunteer member of the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol.

Bjorn will be presenting at MHCO's Medford Seminar on June 13th on Fair Housing.  We are extremely excited to have him participating in the MHCO training programing.  

By:  Bjorn A. Hess, Attorney at Law

Two weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Much of the museum dealt with race and the struggles experienced by African Americans in our nation and touched on difficulties in access to housing amongst other topics. Having dealt with Fair Housing issues as an attorney it was informative for me to experience a museum that dealt in part with housing laws and how we got to where we are today. The following article looks at the history behind current legislation intended to prevent discrimination in housing and how it became law. 

The Fair Housing Act (“The Act”) is federal legislation codified in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 intended to address discrimination in the context of housing. The purpose of the Fair Housing Act is to prevent discrimination by a landlord or homeowner against either a prospective tenant or prospective buyer on the basis of status as a member of a protected class.  The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed into law by then-president Lyndon B. Johnson one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the years following the American Civil War the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed with one major short-coming – it lacked any provisions for federal enforcement and had little to no impact on discrimination in housing or otherwise. In the early 1900’s many had urged Congress to take a look at housing and discrimination yet no real action was taken. It was not until after World War II that the Civil Rights movement began to gain steam and national attention leading to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act. Certainly feeling increased pressure for a call to action the Civil Rights Act of 1968 would forever change the landscape of housing and access in America. 

The political climate of 1968 was tumultuous: America was at the height of engagement in the Vietnam War; John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had both been assassinated; the counter culture movement was challenging conventional society; discussions of civil rights and politics were televised bringing these topics to the dinner table; and across American cities people were rioting in response to the King Assassination. Congress and President Johnson knew something had to be done.

When The Act was passed in 1968 the protected classes originally included race, color, religion, and national origin. Subsequent legislation has expanded these protected classes to include: sex, familial status, and disability. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) is charged with enforcement of the Act.

The goal in passing the Fair Housing Act was to afford every person in this country an equal opportunity for access to the housing market in which their background did not arbitrarily affect their access to housing and give the federal government the ability for enforcement.

It is important to understand the historical context behind legislation. I hope this article has given you some insight into events surrounding the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Act.  At the upcoming seminar in Medford, OR, on June 13th I will be presenting on the Fair Housing Act and delve into a further discussion of the history behind Fair Housing and each of the seven protected classes. I hope to see you there!

Finally - here is Bjorn's contact information:

Bjorn Hess
723 NE 4th Ave
Camas, WA 98607

Phone: 360-834-7957  Email:


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