Guest Editorial From Detroit: "Fair Housing: A Bi-Partisan Issue"

By Cliff Schrupp, FHC Executive Director

Reprinted from the Fair Housing News, January, 1995

In the wake of the November, 1994 elections and the remarkable gains made by the Republican party in both state and federal House and Senate positions there are many personssuggesting that governmental support for fair housing will diminish and violators of fair housing laws will be able to more openly flaunt their discriminatory practices. Certainly, there is ample evidence to support a healthy level of concern about the future of fair housing. The rhetoric coming from the political Right supporting "s tates rights," reduced federal regulation, and major cuts in federal spending lends credence to those who see an even tougher road ahead for fair housing. However, another perspective is available for those who may be interested: "Fair housing" was, and is, a bi-partisan issue.

For most of the 200+ years this nation has been in existence people from all political persuasions openly supported and engaged in practices of housing discrimination. Until 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them unenforceable, racially restrictive covenants were the norm and were upheld by State and Federal Judges who were elected or appointed by both Democrats and Republicans. In the 1930's, when the Federal government, under Democratic leadership, becameactively involved in supporting the devel opment of residential housing through the Federal Home Administration and the Public Housing Administration, racial discrimination and segregation of housing based on race was the required procedure. Working class communities like Dearborn and Warren, an d wealthy communities like the Grosse Pointes or Birmingham, developed well deserved reputations for practices of racial exclusion from their housing markets. Housing discrimination has been a bi-partisan issue.

Similarly, the token efforts this country has made to promote fair and equal housing opportunities and stop practices of discrimination based on race or other protected characteristics have been bi-partisan in nature. Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Ri ghts Act bears the names of a Democrat and a Republican who sponsored the legislation. Bi-partisan support was present for the passage of the first federal fair housing legislation in 1866 (an Act that was virtually ignored by both political parties until 1968) and for the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and its subsequent amendment in 1988.

The Act that provided the authority to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to directly fund private fair housing groups to conduct testing and other enforcement related activities was passed in 1988 and signed into law by a Republic an, President Ronald Reagan. The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to begin a national fair housing testing and enforcement program was made in 1991 under another Republican President, George Bush. Those HUD and DOJ programs have been ext remely effective and have been endorsed and expanded under the leadership of a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.