March 28, 2018

Julián Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, spoke at Cardozo's event on the Fair Housing Act on March 28, 2018. 

March 28, 2018 - Cardozo School of Law celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act this week with a symposium addressing the history and impact of the legislation. The Fair Housing Act was part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, intended to protect buyers or renters of a dwelling from seller or landlord discrimination. When first enacted, it prohibited discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin but was later expanded to included gender, disability and familial status.

Student co-organizers included Stephanie Alvarez-Jones, Emily Barry and Lekha Menon, who partnered with The Cardozo Law Review, the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy and the Cardozo Public Service Scholars to arrange a daylong symposium. The event included notable speakers such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, Inclusive Communities, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and professors and scholars from numerous law schools around the country.

Cardozo professors Stewart Sterk, Rebekah Diller, Michelle Adams and Michael Pollack served as moderators for the various panels which covered a range of aspects relating to the Fair Housing Act: Origins and Development of the FHA; Close to Home: Affirmatively Furthering Inclusive Communities; Equal Access to Opportunity and the Relationship Between Housing and Education; and The Future of Fair Housing: A Look Forward.

Former Secretary Castro delivered the keynote address, thanked attendees for coming to the event and urged them to to “reflect on the past and think about the future of this very important piece of legislation and what it means in our country going forward.”

Castro recalled the tumultuous year of 1968 and that it was a dark “year of division” for the country. “Yet the seeds of tremendous progress were planted when, at the urging of of civil rights activists, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Over the years this groundbreaking piece of legislation has helped to reduce barriers to housing opportunities for Americans of all different backgrounds.”

He noted the importance of the Act: “as a nation we’re more prosperous, more open and more fair because of the Fair Housing Act.”

While at HUD, Castro recalled, “we took the Fair Housing Act seriously. We gave it life. We tried to do what we could to ensure it reached every corner of our nation and every person. We expanded the staff in our Fair Housing Act office and vigorously supported the work of non-profits ton ensure the Fair Housing Act isn’t just a piece of paper, but that it means something.”

Looking to the future, Castro urged law students and those passionate about the Fair Housing Act to “do your part to continue to ensure the Fair Housing Act continues to protect vulnerable Americans everywhere, so that all of us have our chance to pursue the American Dream.”