By: Chancela Al-Mansour, HRC Executive Director
Hello Friends of the Housing Rights Center,
In April of every year, the Housing Rights Center celebrates Fair Housing Month to commemorate the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act by hosting a Housing Rights Summit that brings together residents, housing advocates, government officials, real estate associations, and social service organizations. This year marks the 52nd Anniversary of the founding of the Housing Rights Center (known as Westside Fair Housing Council in 1968) and the passage of a civil rights law that generated the creation of fair housing agencies and fair housing advocacy across the country. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr led our nation’s civil rights movement by using a combination of impassioned speeches and nonviolent protests to fight racial segregation and achieve significant civil rights advances for African Americans and ultimately, for all Americans. His assassination on April 4, 1968 shocked the world and galvanized the nation. It led to an outpouring of anger, as well as a period of national mourning that helped speed the way for the passage of a federal law that prohibited discrimination in housing.
April will always be National Fair Housing Month because it was on April 11, 1968 that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), considered to be the last major piece of legislation of the civil rights era. The law, which banned discrimination in the rental and sale of housing, was co-sponsored by Edward Brooke, the Massachusetts Republican who was the first popularly elected African-American U.S. Senator, and Walter Mondale of Minnesota, who would go on to become Vice President and then the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee.
This year's Housing Rights Summit will be in a different format and venue as we must comply with the state and local orders to be "SAFER AT HOME" and avoid gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped Los Angeles, the nation and the world. While we will miss networking, bonding and sharing valuable information with over 250 attendees in person, HRC will be providing valuable information and resources on a number of topics during the Fair Housing Month over the internet, in print and by telephone. HRC is excited to provide this information in interactive webinars, video conferences, one on one virtual and telephonic counseling sessions, and printed materials tailored to address the laws and the issues of the more than 48 cities and counties that HRC serves. There is a tremendous and continuing need to protect the rights of those who are often denied housing or lose their housing due to their race, religion, gender, familial status, marital status, physical and mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, source of income including Section 8 voucher status, national origin, and U.S. citizenship status. It is, therefore, essential that the Housing Rights Center continues to fully operate and provide important fair housing and landlord-tenant information especially in this precarious time of economic downfall and misery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the 22th Annual Housing Rights Summit "reimagined" as a series of events to be held during the month, we will discuss COVID-19 fair housing related issues and the emergency laws and orders that have been put in place to protect tenants. We will also provide detailed information about the foreclosure prevention provisions in the 2020 CARES Act (stimulus bill). Mental health experts will join us in a webinar on the stresses on families, neighbors and landlords when everyone is at home due to the COVID-19 orders, and anxiety and tension is high and could jeopardize the housing of persons with disabilities. Finally, we will discuss the laws that went into effect in 2020 to protect Section 8 voucher holders from discrimination and to provide rent gouging protection to Californians who do not live in a city with "rent control" among other exciting topics that will be revealed later in the month. Thank you for celebrating National Fair Housing Month with the Housing Rights Center and for your role in advancing the principle of equal housing opportunities for all.
May you all stay safe,