REALTORS® make the commitment to adhere to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, providing equal access to housing for all individuals and promoting the highest industry standards. We encourage you to continue learning about the importance of Fair Housing and its far-reaching impacts.
April is National Fair Housing Month, a time to increase efforts to end housing discrimination and raise awareness of Fair Housing issues. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was enacted into law in 1968 and prohibited discrimination in the housing market based on race, color, religion, and national origin. In 1974, sex was added as a protected class and in 1988, the Act was further amended to prohibit discrimination based on disability and family status.
The FHA is more than simply a law to be followed. Many people understand that the FHA was adopted along with a slate of other federal policies to help promote racial equality. Fewer people fully comprehend how important housing access is to personal well-being. Fair housing benefits all of us. Individuals, families, and children all have better outcomes when they have access to stable, affordable housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods. Local communities and local economies are stronger when there is a diversity of housing options available to all residents.
Why Housing Matters
There is a substantial body of research that has documented the benefits of housing to individual and family well-being. Access to stable, decent, and affordable housing promotes positive outcomes for families and children, including better educational outcomes for children and better physical and mental health outcomes for all family members. In addition, there is compelling research that housing serves as an important platform for the upward economic mobility and self-sufficiency of families.
Homeownership is an important factor in promoting housing stability and supporting family well-being. There is research that has found that children in families who purchased a home with a down payment are significantly less likely to drop out of school than are other children. Recent studies also have documented that the wealth building effect of homeownership is associated with a greater sense of control among homeowners in a stable housing market, which leads to positive mental and physical health outcomes.
A lack of stable housing options in good neighborhoods not only negatively impacts residents today, it also impacts future generations in those communities. When families are not able to access homeownership or otherwise stable housing in good neighborhoods, it is less likely that the children of those families will become homeowners. There is an intergenerational and compounding effect of a lack of wealth creation, a cycle that is challenging to break without access to housing opportunities.
The benefits of housing access go beyond those to the individual families. When all residents are able to access a community’s opportunities and services, everyone benefits. Stable neighborhoods have less crime. When residents own their home, they are more actively engaged in civic and neighborhood groups. In addition, there is some evidence that expanding homeownership opportunities in underserved neighborhoods can draw other economic investment to a community.
Furthermore, we know that children who live in stable, affordable housing in good neighborhoods do better in school. But it turns out that schools and students overall do better when lower-income and minority students have access to stable housing.
In addition, it has been documented that a sufficient supply of housing with homes that are affordable to households all along the income spectrum is critical to supporting sustainable, long-term local economic growth. Expanding access to homeownership and promoting racial and economic integration is increasingly being seen as an important local and regional economic development strategy. Quality of life issues—including housing costs and availability and population diversity—have become critical factors in business decisions about where to locate or expand.
The Status of Housing Opportunity
Overt discrimination in housing market transactions has declined to near zero in most communities. However, five decades after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, implicit discrimination continues to be a problem. We have come a long way in Virginia, but there is still work to be done. REALTORS® can contribute to the solution by implementing all aspects of the Fair Housing Law and by encouraging all real estate industry professionals to do the same.
Access to stable housing and homeownership is so important to the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Virginia REALTORS® is committed to education and advocacy to ensure that housing and neighborhood options are not limited to someone because of his or her race or ethnicity. Furthermore, Virginia REALTORS® is on the front line of increasing access to housing opportunity. We should all take actions that promote fair housing, not simply because it is the law, but because we know the power that housing has to transform families and communities.