The Secret History of the Fair Housing Act
32 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2010 Last revised: 15 Apr 2016
Date Written: 2016
The dominant scholarly consensus holds that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was “toothless” and devoid of enforcement; in the words of the pre-eminent scholars of US housing segregation, it was “intentionally designed so that it would not and could not work.” This Article demonstrates that this consensus is wrong, and that in fact the Fair Housing Act contained ample enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, it reveals the “secret history” of the Fair Housing Act, namely, that it passed in 1968 not through Congressional perfidy but rather through a classic political deal between President Lyndon Johnson and Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen, in which a weakened Dirksen agreed to support fair housing to preserve his leadership position and very probably his Senate seat. These conclusions force us to fundamentally reconsider the history of housing discrimination and segregation in the United States since the passage of the Act, and re-think how housing integration might be achieved in the future.
Keywords: Fair Housing Act of 1968, housing discrimination, housing integration, legal history
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