April was Fair Housing Month. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, into law. The Fair Housing Act protects people from housing discrimination such as the refusal to sell, rent, or lease rooms, apartments, mobile homes, condos, or houses based on their protected category (i.e., race, age, gender, etc). It also prohibits the refusal to negotiate for the sale, rental, or lease of housing, or the denial of a home loan or homeowner’s insurance for discriminatory reasons.

Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, we have recognized and celebrated the strides that have been made in creating housing opportunities for all. Yet, nearly 60 years later, there continue to be nuanced forms of housing discrimination that perpetuate housing disparities and widen the racial wealth gap. For example, a 2018 Brookings study found that homes in majority-Black neighborhoods are often valued significantly less than comparable homes in similar but majority-white communities. Moreover, some studies have shown a gap between the appraised value of homes in predominantly white neighborhoods compared to comparable homes in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods nearly doubled between 1980 and 2015. That’s why, in 2021, President Biden directed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address discrimination in our housing market. Similarly, in 2021, then Philadelphia City Councilmember and now Mayor Cherelle Parker created a housing appraisal discrimination task force that provided recommendations for ways to combat racial bias in the home appraisal process.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) and the Fair Housing Commission (FHC) work in tandem to ensure housing rights are prioritized for homeowners as well as the rental community in Philadelphia. The agencies also work tirelessly to ensure that Philadelphia residents are aware of their rights as renters, homeowners, and landlords. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, PCHR and FHC engaged the public on social media with 30 days of fair housing facts. We highlighted local and federal facts that impact housing rights.

Here are some highlights from the month:

  • When a tenant files a complaint against their landlord with the FHC, there is no filing fee associated with bringing the complaint.
  • In 1992, a city report found that Philadelphia lacked an overall strategy for providing and improving housing. This led to the creation of the Office of Housing and Community Development.
  • According to data from the Census Bureau, homeownership in the U.S. varies significantly by race and ethnicity. For example, in the 4th quarter of 2023, the homeownership rate among non-Hispanic White Americans was 73.8%, followed by Asian Americans (63%), Hispanic Americans (49.9%), and Black Americans (45.9%).
  • In 2022, the federal government found historical evidence that thousands of deeds for Philadelphia homes included racially restrictive covenants that prevented African Americans and other minority groups from owning, renting, or residing in homes located in more desirable parts of the city and predominantly white neighborhoods.

If you believe your rights have been violated or to learn more about the housing rights protections offered through the PCHR visit www.phila.gov/humanrelations. If you are a tenant who believes your rights have been violated, visit www.phila.gov/fairhousing or contact us at 215-686-4670.