April’s National Fair Housing Month commemorates the bedrock civil rights principle that we all deserve the opportunity to choose a home and neighborhood free from discrimination.
On April 11, 1968, the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 after months of gridlock. The legislative breakthrough came only when, on April 4 of that year, the act’s champion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
In the wake of King’s assassination and growing demands for action, Congress came together to pass the Fair Housing Act. The act makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, Family status or disability.
Part of the responsibility of the Army’s Housing Services Office, or HSO, is to advocate on behalf of Soldiers and Families. The HSO staff ensures service members and their Families know their rights under the Fair Housing Act and any applicable state laws regarding the fair and equitable treatment of tenants. They also place emphasis on the obligation of Soldiers and their Families to immediately report any indication of discrimination in their search for housing.
The HSO has previously engaged with off-post property managers at a service member’s request to deal with housing discrimination concerns. To maximize off-post housing support in meeting Soldier needs, the Fort Campbell HSO staff offers nondiscriminatory listings of rental and for-sale housing. The staff also counsels Soldiers and their Families on the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity program and the prohibitions against discrimination based on the protected classes. They also assist in resolving landlord-tenant disputes and will start a preliminary inquiry to validate housing discrimination complaints.
Assistance is available to Soldiers and Families with rental negotiations and review of rental agreements. If a situation arises that is beyond the HSO, the staff will refer the service member to the Staff Judge Advocate Legal Assistance Office for situations requiring legal assistance.
As housing advocates for Soldiers and their Families, the Fort Campbell HSO staff works to strengthen the relationships with off-post landlords, property managers and realtors by educating them about housing laws that protect Soldiers and their Families through the annual Landlord-Tenant Act and Fair Housing Seminar. This year’s seminar is hosted by the HSO and Property Management Association of Clarksville 11 a.m -4 p.m. April 21 at the Clarksville Board of Realtors, 115 Center Pointe Drive.
The seminar includes legal experts who will provide information about changes that could impact landlords who rent to Soldiers. The speakers include Vanessa Bullock with West Tennessee Legal Services, and Nathan Lybarger with Hall Associates. The focus of the seminar is reasonable accommodations and modifications for tenants, laws and regulations protecting service and assistant animals, overview of fair housing laws and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, formally known as the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Act. Landlords and property managers who may be interested in attending the seminar should contact the HSO at 270-798-3808.
National Fair Housing Month increases efforts to end housing discrimination and raises awareness of fair housing rights. If a service member needs assistance with any systematic and repetitive issues within the home with an on-post or off-post landlord, contact the Housing Hotline at 270-956-4728. The hotline is open 24 hours a day. The Housing Services Office, in the Soldier Support Center, 2702 Michigan Ave., is open 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
The HSO assists in providing safe and quality homes. Learn more by visiting www.hud.gov and use #NationalFairHousingMonth.