Viewpoint: Fair housing crucial to quality of life in metro

The main reasons why people can't buy a house are because they can't afford the down payment, have too much debt, or have a bad credit score.

Viewpoint: Fair housing crucial to quality of life in metro

In the United States, real estate agents commemorate every April the passage of Fair Housing Act 1968 to ensure that equitable and inclusive changes are always top of mind.

Fair Housing Month is an opportunity to renew commitments and expand homeownership. It's also a movement which benefits Alabamians every day and should continue long after May has passed.

The Birmingham Association of Realtors, in honor of this year's civil rights anniversary, which marks the 55th anniversary of a law that makes discrimination in the housing transaction illegal, rallied 55 government agencies in Blount County, Chilton County, Clay County, Jefferson county, Randolph county, and Shelby county to declare the month of March as Fair Housing Month, and to pledge to fight discriminatory housing practices.

BAR received proclamations for all six counties, and 50 municipalities.

For many community leaders, homeownership comes as a given. They understand that it is the only option. But for other members of the community, homeownership remains a fantasy.

Lack of funds for a downpayment, debts, a limited budget, and a bad credit score/history are the primary barriers to homeownership.

With interest rates returning to the 6 to 7 percent range, economic headwinds and equity gains, and a lack of inventory prices it's become harder to achieve.

The dream can be a difficult thing to achieve in many situations. It is important that discrimination does not creep into the house search, or that biases are not perpetuated by the idea of redlining.

BAR Board of Directors Member Tonya Smitherman said, "As a realtor, I know that my livelihood is dependent on my ability to work within the guidelines of fair housing act. I also understand that as a Realtor, I am held to higher standards in my mission to help my clients achieve the American Dream of home ownership. This tour was a great success and I'm grateful to all the elected officials that stood up with us to fight housing discrimination.

The Fair Housing Act of 1988 also applies to the renting of a house or apartment. Rent for multifamily units is increasing significantly in the metro area every year. Discrimination should not be a concern.

The BBJ thanks real estate agents for keeping fair housing front and centre and finding new ways to make it a reality now and into the future.

We don't need to return to the days when this act was passed, with separate Black and White communities, and a non-integrated culture.