More than 50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Federal Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, and family status. This groundbreaking law also made it unlawful for a housing provider to make, print or publish any statement or advertisement indicating a preference, based on these classes. Although unlawful discrimination continues to keep many individuals and families from obtaining housing of their choice, the passage of the Fair Housing Act took a giant step forward in addressing this issue.

Every April, people across the United States are encouraged to learn more about their rights and responsibilities under the Act as a part of National Fair Housing Month. This year’s theme – “More Than Just Words” – reminds us that fair housing rights are no longer simply words. Rather, Americans are entitled to be free from discrimination when seeking to rent, own, buy or insure a home; and, they are free to take action if they suspect they have been a victim of discrimination.

The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) is your state agency charged with investigating cases of housing discrimination. Last year alone, the FCHR investigated more than 200 cases where housing discrimination was alleged. Despite the passage of the Federal Act and the Florida Fair Housing Act in 1983, housing discrimination persists. The top five bases of discrimination are (in order of greatest number of cases to least): disability, race, national origin, familial status and sex.

As chair of the FCHR, I have the responsibility to inform people that they have the power to fight housing discrimination. The FCHR, a local fair housing center, and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development are proof of “More Than Just Words,” and I encourage those who feel they have been discriminated against to contact one of these agencies as the first step in this process.

The FCHR can be contacted at 850-488-7082 or by visiting the website at http://fchr.state.fl.us/. We are ready to assist if you have experienced discrimination.

Mario Garza, Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations