This Fair Housing Month, Let’s Recommit to Fair Housing

By Shiela Y. Moore


Follow by Email

The Fair Housing Act marks a monumental milestone in the fight for civil rights and housing access in the United States. Enacted in 1968 in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race; color; national origin; religion; sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity; familial status; and disability. Massachusetts has additional legislation in place that expands on these protections by prohibiting discrimination based on the source of a renter’s income, including whether they have a housing voucher.

At the time the Fair Housing Act was passed—56 years ago this April—it represented a significant opportunity to ensure everyone would have fair access to housing after many decades of institutionalized discrimination. However, despite the Fair Housing Act, discrimination still runs rampant across the housing market. The Boston Foundation’s 2020 report, Qualified Renters Need Not Apply: Race and Voucher Discrimination in the Metro Boston Rental Housing Market, documents pervasive discrimination based on both race and voucher status in Greater Boston.

Today, discrimination in the Greater Boston housing market persists. Four years after The Boston Foundation’s report was published, the non-profit Housing Rights Initiative (HRI) conducted testing and determined that discrimination based on voucher status continues to be widespread in Boston. HRI filed a lawsuit against 20 landlords, property owners, and real estate companies for discriminating against voucher holders. The lawsuit alleges instances of blatant discrimination, such as a realtor sharing with a prospective tenant that the landlords “don’t do Section 8,” and it documents more subtle forms of discrimination, like ghosting.

The lawsuit brought forth by HRI is a noteworthy example of accountability for those who are perpetuating discrimination in our communities. But, a single case isn’t enough to uproot a decades-long pattern of ongoing, systemic discrimination. As HRI founder and executive director Aaron Carr says, the findings of their investigation are “the tip of a very discriminatory iceberg.” The federal Fair Housing Act and state-specific fair housing laws are only effective if they are consistently enforced. In order to ensure fair housing for all, we need to recommit to holding accountable all who carry out discriminatory practices in our communities.

When we hold those perpetrating discriminatory practices accountable, our whole community benefits. At Hildebrand, the vision that we share with our many partners, supporters, volunteers, and friends is that every family has a home. Housing discrimination impedes our progress towards achieving that vision. It exacerbates the housing crisis by further limiting an already extremely tight housing stock, making it difficult for families to move out of homelessness and prolonging their stay in shelter. Discrimination also reinforces racial and socioeconomic segregation in Boston by limiting housing options for people of color outside of neighborhoods that are highly segregated by race, and limiting options for voucher-holders outside of neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty.

As we seek to address Massachusetts’ intensifying housing crisis and entrenched segregation, let’s start with the solutions that are already in front of us. We need to ensure that existing protections, including the Fair Housing Act, are being consistently implemented and enforced. And, we can do more. By changing local zoning laws to allow for multi-family housing, for example, we can open up pathways for families to find homes in our communities. As this Fair Housing Month comes to an end, let’s recommit to fair housing and take the next steps towards ensuring that every family has a home.

Do you want to help support Hildebrand?


614 Massachusetts Avenue
Third Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139
Ph: 617-491-5752
F: 617-491-2385

Mon-Fri 9:00 AM-5:00 PM *congregate living programs are staffed 24/7
Follow Us
Stay Connected