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Statement About Federal Policies Relative to Equal Housing Opportunity

June 11, 1971

OF ALL the services, facilities, and other amenities a community provides, few matter more to the individual and his family than the kind of housing he lives in--and the kind of neighborhood of which that housing is a part. Through the ages, men have fought to defend their homes; they have struggled, and often dared the wilderness, in order to secure better homes.

It is not surprising, therefore, that public policies affecting the kind and location of homes available should be the subject of intense and widespread interest, and also of intense, far-ranging, and sometimes passionate debate.

One of the achievements of this Administration of which I am most proud has been the dramatic progress we have made in increasing the supply of housing, including particularly low- and moderate income housing, so as to expand the range of housing opportunities for Americans in search of a decent home. Housing starts are currently at the highest levels in 20 years. While our primary emphasis is on stimulating private construction, the number of federally assisted low- and moderate-income housing starts planned for fiscal year 1979 will be more than four times what it was as recently as fiscal 1968--an increase from some 150,000 to some 650, 000. The remaining needs are still enormous. But this represents a .giant step toward fulfilling the goal set forth in the Housing Act of 1949, of "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family."

The very fact that so much progress is being made, however, has sharpened the focus on what has come to be called "fair housing"--a term employed, but not defined, in the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and to which many persons and groups have ascribed their own often widely varied meanings.

In this statement, I shall set forth the policies, as they have been developed in this Administration, that will guide our efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in housing, to enlarge housing opportunities for all Americans, and to assist in stable and orderly community development. It is important to understand the laws that govern those policies, the limits within which they operate, the complexities they seek to address, and the goals they seek to achieve.

My purpose is not to announce new policies, but to define and explain the policies we have--setting forth what we will do and what we will not. The factors determining patterns of housing and community development are immensely complex and intricately balanced, many are uniquely local in nature, and the Federal Government operates in important but limited ways and under limited authorities. Within those limits, we intend to continue to move vigorously--not to restrict free choice, but to expand and protect it.

Underlying our housing policies--and embodied in our laws and our Constitution-are certain basic principles:

--Denial of equal housing opportunity to a person because of race is wrong, and will not be tolerated.

--Such denial will not be tolerated whether practiced directly and overtly, or under cover of subterfuges, or indirectly through such practices as price and credit discrimination.

--To qualify for Federal assistance, the law requires a local housing or community development project to be part of a plan that expands the supply of low- and moderate-income housing in a racially nondiscriminatory way.

--In terms of site selection for a housing development, the Federal role is one of agreeing or not agreeing to provide Federal subsidies for projects proposed by local authorities or other developers.

--A municipality that does not want federally assisted housing should not have it imposed from Washington by bureaucratic fiat; this is not a proper Federal role.

--Local communities should be encouraged in their own voluntary efforts to make more housing more widely available, and to reduce the extent of racial concentration.

--Putting an end to racial discrimination, and building toward the goal of free and open communities, is a responsibility shared by Federal, State, and local governments, by business and private institutions, by civic leaders, and by individual people everywhere.


The history of racial discrimination in housing in America runs deep; but, to the Nation's credit, so do efforts to correct it.

In earlier years, some local ordinances actually forbade minority group members to purchase property in blocks where they did not constitute a majority. Such ordinances were invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1917.

Covenants running with the land were widely used to restrict minority citizens in their access to housing. The efficacy of these covenants rested on their possible enforcement by courts and the awarding of damages for their breach. Judicial enforcement was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1948.

Federal policy itself, quite unsurprisingly, in past eras reflected what then were widespread public attitudes. Policies which governed FHA mortgage insurance activities for more than a decade between the middle thirties and the late forties recognized and accepted restrictive covenants designed to maintain the racial homogeneity of neighborhoods.

Compounding the plight of minority Americans, locked as many of them were in deteriorating central cities, was the Federal urban renewal program. It was designed to help clear out blighted areas and rejuvenate urban neighborhoods. All too often, it cleared out but did not replace housing which, although substandard, was the only housing available to minorities. Thus it typically left minorities even more ill-housed and crowded than before.

Historically, then, the Federal Government was not blameless in contributing to housing shortages and to the impairment of equal housing opportunity for minority Americans. Much has been done to remedy past shortcomings of Federal policy, and active opposition to discrimination is now solidly established in Federal law. But despite the efforts and emphasis of recent years, widespread patterns of residential separation by race and of unequal housing opportunity persist.


In terms of racial concentration, the facts on housing occupancy revealed by the 1970 census are compelling. In our 66 largest metropolitan areas, accounting for more than half the U.S. population-of which 49 are in the North and West-the central city white population declined during the decade of the sixties by about 2 million (5%), while the black population increased almost 3 million (35%). This meant overall black population in central cities increased from 18% in 1960 to 24% in 1970.

In the suburban areas of these cities, however, the story was different. White population increased by 12.5 million (30%) and black population increased by less than 1 million (44%). The result was that the total black proportion of suburban population increased only from 4.2% in 1960 to 4.5% in 1970.

In city after city the figures tell the same story. In New York City the white population declined by 617,000 while the black population rose by 579,000. In St. Louis whites declined by 169,000; blacks rose by 40,000. Thus the central cities grow ever more black, while the surrounding areas, for the most part, remain overwhelmingly white.

It is important to remember, of course, that simple divisions into "central city" and "suburban" can be misleading in this context. It makes a great deal of difference how large the city is, and what the patterns of distribution within the metropolitan area are in terms not only of housing but of business, industry, recreational facilities, transportation, and all the many factors that enter into its internal dynamics as a functioning community.

One thing this points to is that no single set of rigid criteria can be laid down that will fit a wide variety of local situations. To speak of "opening up the suburbs," for example, may have widely differing implications in different metropolitan areas, just as the term "central city" means something quite different in New York or Chicago than it does in New Haven or Fresno.

To some extent, the persistence of racially separate housing patterns reflects the free choice of individuals and families in both the majority and minority communities. Economic factors have also played a part, since average income levels--even though the disparity is being narrowed--remain lower for minority Americans than for the Caucasian majority.

It also is inescapable, however, that continuing, often covert housing discrimination is thwarting or discouraging the efforts of many minority citizens to find better housing in better neighborhoods. This is wrong, constitutionally indefensible, and pragmatically unwise.


Separation of the races, particularly when it is involuntary, has damaging consequences. One is racial isolation--the social isolation of the races from each other--an estrangement that all too readily engenders unwarranted mistrust, hostility, and fear.

Another consequence of involuntary racial separation is the waste of human resources through the denial of human opportunity. No nation is rich enough and strong enough to afford the price which dehumanizing living environments extract in the form of wasted human potential and stunted human lives--and many of those living environments in which black and other minority Americans are trapped are dehumanizing.

Another price of racial segregation is being paid each day in dollars: in wages lost because minority Americans are unable to find housing near the suburban jobs for which they could qualify. Industry and jobs are leaving central cities for the surrounding areas. Unless minority workers can move along with the jobs, the jobs that go to the suburbs will be denied to the minorities--and more persons who want to work will be added to the cities' unemployment and welfare rolls.

Clearly, both outright racial discrimination and persisting patterns of racial concentration combine to create a serious set of problems that public policy must seek to meet. These problems are human, they are economic, they are social and they pose a challenge of the first magnitude to the community of the metropolitan area that tries to meet them in a way most nearly fair to all those affected. It is encouraging that many communities are meeting this challenge, and meeting it successfully.



The Federal Government's responsibilities for eliminating racial discrimination in housing derive partly from the Constitution, partly from the Government's own extensive involvement in housing and community development programs, and partly from a number of statutes and Executive orders.

The broad outlines of the law are contained in our Constitution, which in its 5th, 13th, and 14th amendments guarantees basic civil rights, including the right to seek shelter free from any racial discrimination fostered by Federal, State, or local governments.

Executive Order 11063, issued in 1962, expressly states that housing discrimination and segregation prevent the Nation from attaining the housing goals declared by the 1949 Housing Act. It further directs all Federal departments and agencies "to take all action necessary and appropriate to prevent discrimination" as to race, color, religion, or national origin in federally assisted housing and related projects.

Congress followed up this initiative 2 years later with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A critical provision of that law, Title VI, provides that no person shall, "on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." As a penalty for such discrimination, it provides for a cutoff of Federal funds to the program in which the discrimination occurs. The clear intent of the Congress in enacting this legislation was to insure that no program utilizing Federal financial aid should be tainted by racial or ethnic discrimination. A careful review of the legislative history indicates that the Congress intended that the cutoff of Federal funds resulting from a violation should apply only to the particular activity in which the unlawful racial discrimination took place, and not to all activities undertaken by the violator.

In the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Congress declared that "It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States."

Title VIII of the 1968 act goes beyond the previous statutes (which in terms of housing, had dealt only with that which was federally assisted) to prohibit discrimination on account of race, color, religion, or national origin in most private real estate actions, whether sale or rental and regardless of whether Federal assistance is involved or not. In addition, this title also makes it the responsibility of "all executive departments and agencies" and the specific responsibility of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to "administer their programs and activities relating to housing and urban development in a manner affirmatively to further the purposes of this title."


The provisions of the law aimed at barring racial discrimination in housing are administered primarily by the Departments of Justice and of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD's role under Title VI in the 1964 act is to guard against racial discrimination in any program or activity to which HUD gives financial assistance. Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act requires HUD to investigate complaints of housing discrimination and, where appropriate, to attempt to resolve such complaints through persuasion or conciliation. In calendar year 1970, HUD completed processing of 169 complaints; in 89 of these cases conciliation was successful. In the same year, HUD referred 19 of these cases where conciliation failed to the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, the Attorney General is empowered to bring suits in Federal court where he finds that racial discrimination in housing constitutes a "pattern or practice," or where housing discrimination cases raise issues of general public importance. Since January 1969, the Attorney General has brought or participated in 85 such suits against more than 250 defendants in 22 States and the District of Columbia. In addition, the Justice Department has negotiated out of court with several hundred other persons and companies and brought them into voluntary compliance.

These cases have involved not only outright racial discrimination in the sale or rental of homes but also such practices as discriminatory real estate advertising and exclusion of minorities from multiple listing services. Several of the suits have been against municipal authorities. Several others have been against major companies controlling tens of thousands of dwelling units, and have resulted in orders that they take dramatic remedial efforts to attract minority families into buildings from which they have previously been barred or discouraged.

Not only have these suits directly opened to nonwhites a great deal of housing previously available only to whites; they also have had a significant, wider impact in stimulating others to came into voluntary compliance with the antidiscrimination laws. This vigorous enforcement as required by law will continue.

Unlawful racial discrimination in housing extends beyond the barring of individuals from particular buildings or neighborhoods became of race. The courts have also held that, when its reasons for doing so are racial, a community may not rezone in order to exclude a federally assisted housing development. In such cases, where changes in land use regulations are made for what turns out to be a racially discriminatory purpose, the Attorney General, in appropriate circumstances, will also bring legal proceedings.


In order to understand the way in which the broad "fair housing" mandates translate into specific actions, it is important to understand what some of the Federal housing programs are and how they operate.

HUD provides direct financial assistance in three broad areas:

--Housing for low- and moderate income families. This includes the Home Ownership and Rental Housing Assistance subsidy programs ("Section 235" and "Section 236" housing, respectively), the rent supplement program enacted in 1965, and assistance to low-rent public housing.

--Grants for State, area wide, and local planning.

--Aid for community development activities, such as urban renewal and water and sewer grants.

In addition, of course, HUD plays a major role in providing mortgage insurance and in facilitating the overall flow of mortgage funds.

In each of these areas, the Federal program role--as the governing statutes make clear--is essentially one of responding to local or private initiatives, rather than one of imposing its programs on State and local governments.

In none of HUD's grant programs does the Department act directly. The Department builds no housing, develops no land use plans, clears no slums, and constructs no sewers. Instead, HUD provides, within its statutory and regulatory framework, financial assistance to local developers and agencies, both public and private, who build and manage housing, and engage in planning and community development activities.

The extent to which HUD program activity is dependent on local initiative and execution is frequently overlooked, but is an important element in considering policy issues. Sites for HUD assisted housing must be selected and acquired by local sponsors--public or private-and housing developed on those sites must conform to local zoning and local building codes. Planning performed with HUD assistance is done by State and local governmental bodies. Community development activities--urban renewal, water and sewer, or open space projects, for example--are initiated and executed by local government.

In short, HUD's role in the location of assisted housing is one not of site selection, but of ultimate site approval. It does not initiate local housing projects. With more applications than it can fund, it must select those for funding which it determines most fully satisfy the purposes of the enabling legislation--and in doing so it says "yes" or "no" to local requests for financial assistance for projects that have been locally planned and will be locally executed.

In responding to local and private initiatives, of course, the Department must follow the statutory mandates. For example:

--As noted earlier, HUD may not make a grant under any of its programs if the recipient will discriminate or otherwise deny the benefits of the assisted activity or project to persons on account of race.

--Where the "workable program" requirement-imposed on local communities by the Housing Act of 1949, as amended in 1954, in connection with urban renewal and related programs is a condition of eligibility, HUD may not make a grant in the absence of a HUD-certified workable program for community improvement. The program must make reasonable provision for low- and moderate-income housing, which must of course be available on a nondiscriminatory basis.

--Where comprehensive planning is supported by a Federal grant under the 1954 Housing Act, as amended in 1968, the plan must include a "housing element" to insure that "the housing needs of both the region and the local communities studied in the planning will be adequately covered in terms of existing and prospective in-migrant population growth." This provision has broad application, since such planning grants are often used to prepare the area wide plans which are a prerequisite for Federal financial assistance under the water and sewer, open space, and new communities programs.

Similarly, the statutory requirement of "fair housing" applies in the area of private housing construction, where the Federal role is substantial. The Federal Government provides billions of dollars in assistance and guarantees of mortgage credit for housing financing. The Federal Government sets standards widely used by industry, such as minimum property standards, credit standards, appraisal standards, and construction standards. The Federal Government makes market analyses which materially influence the private sector. The Federal Government approves mortgagees, builders, developers, and brokers with respect to their doing business with HUD. Local government and private initiative and Federal standards work together to produce new housing. And under the law, that new housing--like all the Nation's housing stock--must be open equally to all Americans regardless of race, religion, or national origin.

In approaching questions of "fair housing" for low- and moderate-income persons, it is important to remember that we are dealing with a rather imprecise term and with two separate matters.

One is the elimination of racial discrimination in housing. On this, the Constitution and the laws are clear and unequivocal: Racial discrimination in housing will not be tolerated.

In public discussions of "fair housing" or "open housing," however, another issue has often become confused with that of racial discrimination. This is sometimes referred to as "economic integration." Frequently it arises in debates over whether subsidized low-rent public housing should be placed in the suburbs as a means of moving poor people out of the inner city and, if so, where, to what extent, and by what means.

One of the arguments frequently advanced is that poor people are often disadvantaged by living in low-income neighborhoods; that poverty thus perpetuates itself; and that the remedy therefore is to scatter the poor among the more affluent. Another argument often heard is that blacks and other minorities tend to be disproportionately poor, and that "economic segregation" is therefore equivalent to racial segregation.

It is important to remember, however, that the terms "poor" and "black" are not interchangeable. A higher percentage of blacks than of whites lives below the poverty line--but there are far more poor whites in America than there are poor blacks. Much of the Nation's most dismally inadequate housing is occupied by blacks; much of it is occupied by whites. Many of the worst slums are black; many are white. And by the same token, the skilled trades, the businesses, and professions increasingly are populated by affluent blacks whose children go to the best schools and colleges and who themselves have taken their deserved place in the leadership, not simply of inner-city neighborhoods but of urban, suburban, and rural communities all across America.

To cite only one statistic, a recent special census study showed that in the North and West, black husband-wife families headed by persons under 25 had a median income equal to that of their white contemporaries. Although the income disparities among other ages and categories is still far too wide, this is one measure of how far we have come; also, because these young families represent the future, it is an indication of where we are heading. To equate "poor" with "black" does a disservice to the truth, and it blinks the fact--fundamental to anything so intensely personal as housing--that we are dealing with the needs not of an undifferentiated mass, but of millions of individual human beings, each separate and unique.

In many cases--when dealing with poor people who happen to be members of a racial minority--questions of where to locate housing for poor people and where to locate housing for members of the minority are related. But the issues involved are separate, and those who would treat effectively with race and poverty must take care to maintain the distinction. What is true of blacks in this regard is also true of Mexican-Americans, Indians, and members of other minorities.

When predominantly poor members of a racial minority are concentrated heavily in one particular area of a central city, the question of where to build housing designed to accommodate some but not all of them is often not easily answered. On the one hand, for example, concentrating the subsidized housing in the predominantly black area could have the effect of reinforcing the racial separation that already exists. On the other hand, failure to build at least a portion of it there could be unfair to the people who choose to live there, as well as reinforcing the housing blight that often prevails in such areas. Quite apart from racial considerations, residents of outlying areas may and often do object to the building in their communities of subsidized housing which they fear may have the effect of lowering property values and bringing in large numbers of persons who will contribute less in taxes than they consume in services. Beyond this, and whether rightly or wrongly, as they view the social conditions of urban slum fife many residents of the outlying areas are fearful that moving large numbers of persons--of whatever race--from the slums to their communities would bring a contagion of crime, violence, drugs, and the other conditions from which so many of those who are trapped in the slums themselves want to escape.

In many other respects, the balances to be struck are often close and the considerations complex: For example, how are the interests of one part of a metropolitan area to be weighed against those of the area as a whole? What other housing opportunities are available? How do transportation patterns, job patterns, school locations, enter into the choice? What related efforts are being made to expand opportunity and end racial discrimination? And how and by whom are the determinations to be made?

By establishing "fair housing" as a policy but leaving the term undefined, Title VIII of the 1968 act added a complexity of its own: a lively debate about just what it means, and especially about the meaning of its requirement that Federal officials take "affirmative action" to promote it.

This and the other law-s make abundantly clear that the Federal Government has an active, affirmative role to play in eliminating racial discrimination in either the sale or rental of housing. They also make it clear that those communities which seek Federal assistance for most housing and community development programs must work honestly and constructively to meet the housing needs of their low- and moderate-income families. The debate has arisen over the extent to which Federal agencies are either required or authorized to go beyond antidiscrimination efforts, and to use their program money leverage as a means of requiring local communities to subordinate their land use policies to the goal either of breaking up racial concentrations or of promoting "economic integration."


It will be the firm purpose of this Administration to carry out all the requirements of the law fully and fairly.

Racial discrimination in housing is illegal, and will not be tolerated. In order to fulfill their responsibility for eliminating this discrimination, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department have been developing and elaborating a wide-ranging program aimed at creating equal housing opportunity.

By "equal housing opportunity," I mean the achievement of a condition in which individuals of similar income levels in the same housing market area have a like range of housing choices available to them regardless of their race, color, religion, or national origin.

At the outset, we set three basic requirements for our program to achieve equal housing opportunity: It must be aimed at correcting the effects of past discrimination; it must contain safeguards to ensure against future discrimination; and it must be results-oriented so its progress toward the overall goal of increasing housing opportunities can be evaluated.

The Administration is embarked upon this course. It must and will press forward firmly.

The chief components of such a program include the firm enforcement of laws relating to equal housing opportunity, the development of appropriate equal housing opportunity criteria for participation in programs affecting housing, the development of information programs, and the development of policies relating to housing marketing practices.

It is obvious that not all individuals will exercise the full range of choices made available to them. Those are matters for individual decision.

What is essential is that all citizens be able to choose among reasonable locational alternatives within their economic means, and that racial nondiscrimination be scrupulously and rigorously enforced.

We will not seek to impose economic integration upon an existing local jurisdiction; at the same time, we will not countenance any use of economic measures as a subterfuge for racial discrimination.

When such an action is called into question, we will study its effect. If the effect of the action is to exclude Americans from equal housing opportunity on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnic background, we will vigorously oppose it by whatever means are most appropriate--regardless of the rationale which may have cloaked the discriminatory act.

Access to federally assisted housing, like access to all housing, must be nondiscriminatory as to race. But simply to apply this principle will not answer all the practical problems raised by our national commitment to expanded and equal housing opportunity.

Pressures for the construction of new housing and the rehabilitation of existing housing are growing all across the Nation-in central cities, in suburbs, in small towns, in rural America. Demand for housing at all income levels is increasing dramatically.

As a major part of our national effort to meet these housings needs--an effort which is both private and governmental-federally assisted housing is being built at a rate approaching 3/4 of a million units a year. These units are needed. They are being built. And they must be built someplace. The question is where.

If all the federally assisted units are packed together in one type of community or one kind of location, we will only exacerbate the social and, in all probability, the racial isolation of our people from each other.

If we build federally assisted instant ghettos, we fail both our communities and the people we are trying to help.

If we impact or tip the balance of an established community with a flood of low-income families, we do a disservice to all concerned.

The answers to these practical considerations are not simple but they are of great importance.

Based on a careful review of the legislative history of the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts, and also of the program context within which the law has developed, I interpret the "affirmative action" mandate of the 1968 act to mean that the administrator of a housing program should include, among the various criteria by which applications for assistance are judged, the extent to which a proposed project, or the overall development plan of which it is a part, will in fact open up new, nonsegregated housing opportunities that will contribute to decreasing the effects of past housing discrimination. This does not mean that no federally assisted low- and moderate-income housing may be built within areas of minority concentration. It does not mean that housing officials in Federal agencies should dictate local land use policies. It does mean that in choosing among the various applications for Federal aid, consideration should be given to their impact on patterns of racial concentration.

In furtherance of this policy, not only the Department of Housing and Urban Development but also the other departments and agencies administering housing programs--the Veterans Administration, the Farmers Home Administration, and the Department of Defense will administer their programs in a way which will advance equal housing opportunity for people of all income levels on a metropolitan area wide basis.

This Administration will not attempt to impose federally assisted housing upon any community.

We will encourage communities to discharge their responsibility for helping to provide decent housing opportunities to the Americans of low- and moderate income who live or work within their boundaries.

We will encourage communities to seek and accept well-conceived, well-designed, well-managed housing developments-always within the community's capacity to assimilate the families who will live in them.

We will carry out our programs in a way that will be as helpful as possible to communities which are receptive to the expansion of housing opportunities for all of our people.

In these efforts we will be aided by a change that already is taking place in the way subsidized low-and moderate-income housing is planned, built, and managed: In terms of new construction, the old style, massively concentrated high-rise public housing project is largely a thing of the past; the trend now is strongly toward low-rise dwellings, many of them one-, two-, three- or four-family, on scattered sites, so that they can blend in with the community without detracting from nearby properties. Under the newer Federal programs of financial assistance to low- and moderate-income housing of other sorts, the pattern has been one of variety, enabling the community to fit the development to its own needs.

By approaching local questions of land use planning in a creative and sophisticated manner, local authorities should in most cases be able to work out site-selection problems in ways that provide adequate housing opportunities for those who need them without disrupting the community.

In other ways as well, we are and will be working to promote better and more open housing opportunities. For example:

--By Executive Order 11512, issued in February 1970, I ordered that in the selection of sites for Federal facilities consideration should be given to the availability of adequate low- and moderate-income housing--and I have ordered that all agencies take specifically into account whether this housing is in fact available on a nondiscriminatory basis.

--Guidelines have recently been issued by the Office of Management and Budget under the provisions of the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1970, to assure that adequate housing is provided on a nondiscriminatory basis and within the financial means of persons displaced by federally financed projects.

--The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been actively pressing the major Federal agencies regulating lending institutions to establish effective, affirmative measures against racial discrimination in home mortgage financing. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which regulates savings and loan institutions, has been the first to undertake the development of new rules and procedural safeguards. The Board is also working closely with industry leaders to improve financial services offered to members of minority groups.

--HUD also engages in a number of other Title VIII activities intended to eliminate racial discrimination in housing. It publishes advisory guidelines to aid those subject to the jurisdiction of the law in understanding their responsibilities; it undertakes studies of housing practices and collects racial data on all of its housing programs in order to determine areas of noncompliance; it conducts continuing community education programs to inform individuals of their rights under law; it encourages national, State, and local private organizations in undertaking programs designed to expand housing options for minority group and low-income individuals; it works closely with State and local agencies having fair housing laws substantially equivalent to Title VIII and refers complaints to these agencies.


On March 24, 1970, I issued a statement setting forth in detail the Administration's policies on school desegregation. In a portion of that statement that applies equally to housing, I said the goal of this Administration is "a free and open society"--and I added:

In saying this, I use the words "free" and "open" quite precisely.

Freedom has two essential elements: the right to choose, and the ability to choose. The fight to move out of a mid-city slum, for example, means little without the means of doing so. The right to apply for a good job means little without access to the skills that make it attainable. By the same token, those skills are of little use if arbitrary policies exclude the person who has them because of race or other distinction.

Similarly, an "open" society is one of open choices--and one in which the individual has the mobility to take advantage of those choices.

In speaking of "desegregation" or "integration," we often lose sight of what these mean within the context of a free, open, pluralistic society. We cannot be free, and at the same time be required to fit our lives into prescribed places on a racial grid--whether segregated or integrated, and whether by some mathematical formula or by automatic assignment. Neither can we be free, and at the same time be denied-because of race--the right to associate with our fellow citizens on a basis of human equality.

An open society does not have to be homogeneous, or even fully integrated. There is room within it for many communities. Especially in a nation like America, it is natural that people with a common heritage retain special ties; it is natural and right that we have Italian or Irish or Negro or Norwegian neighborhoods; it is natural and right that members of those communities feel a sense of group identity and group pride. In terms of an open society, what matters is mobility: the right and the ability of each person to decide for himself where and how he wants to live, whether as part of the ethnic enclave or as part of the larger society--or, as many do, share the life of both.

We are richer for our cultural diversity; mobility is what allows us to enjoy it.

Economic, educational, social mobility-all these, too, are essential elements of the open society. When we speak of equal opportunity we mean just that: that each person should have an equal chance at the starting line, and an equal chance to go just as high and as far as his talents and energies will take him.

The Federal Government bears an important share of responsibility for achieving fair housing for all Americans. But fair housing is not the responsibility of the Federal Government alone, and not of government alone. Its achievement depends on all of us--on the States and localities, on business and industry, on civic and professional leadership, and on each of us in his daily life.

For its part, the Federal Government will discharge fully its own particular responsibilities and offer example and leadership for others in the discharge of their responsibilities. We will be vigorous in enforcing both the constitutional mandate and the statutory requirements that there not be housing discrimination on grounds of race. In the more complex and difficult area of providing subsidized housing in areas where it is needed, we will encourage communities and local developers to take into account the broad needs of the various groups within the community and of the metropolitan area.

But we all must recognize that the kinds of land-use questions involved in housing site selection are essentially local in nature: They represent the kind of basic choices about the future shape of a community, or of a metropolitan area, that should be chiefly for the people of that community or that area to determine. The challenge of how to provide fair, open and adequate housing is one that they must meet; and they must live with their success or failure.

To local officials are entrusted the initial, and often the final, determinations as to how much low- and moderate income housing is to be built, how well it is to, be built, and where it is to be built. They operate under the same antidiscrimination strictures that apply to Federal officials. And in terms of site selection and residential zoning--both sensitive and complex matters, and yet both central to the goal of truly open housing in truly open communities--they operate in an area little charted by the Supreme Court but increasingly being navigated by the lower courts, as land-use restrictions come under mounting challenge on constitutional grounds.

Two recent court cases suggest the boundaries within which other courts will be wrestling with these questions in the months and years just ahead. In one of these cases (James v. Valtierra), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, absent any evidence of racially discriminatory intent, a State law requiring prior approval of low-rent housing projects by community referendum does not, on its face, violate the Constitution. Noting California's long tradition of using referenda on a wide range of issues of public policy and the factual finding in the lower courts that legitimate economic considerations were involved in the referendum in question, the court concluded that there was no factual basis for a claim that the California law was "aimed at a racial minority." On the other hand, in another case presenting sharply contrasting circumstances (Kennedy Park Homes Association v. City of Lackawanna, N.Y.), a Circuit Court of Appeals recently held illegal certain zoning and other municipal restrictions used to block a subsidized lowincome housing development in an all white neighborhood. In that case the municipal practices were determined to be subterfuges and part of a pattern of racially motivated discrimination by municipal officials; the Supreme Court denied certiorari. In short, the one case did not present evidence of racially discriminatory intent; the other did.

If these cases define the outer limits, they also indicate the broad range within which cases will be pressed in the courts by those who would seek the mandate of judicial decree in setting aside local restrictions to achieve social purposes: For example, the right of a community to impose large-lot zoning, even in the absence of any racial discrimination, has lately been under court challenge.

If the infinitely varied individual questions that arise as our thousands of local governments hammer out their individual local land-use policies are not appropriate for Federal determination--and they are not--neither would it be wise to allow a situation to develop in which they have to be hammered out in the courts. But they no doubt will end up in the courts if they are not satisfactorily dealt with outside the courts through timely and enlightened local action.

This Administration will offer leadership in encouraging local and State governments and housing authorities to address this question creatively and imaginatively, and to address it with a keen understanding of the needs of those persons for whom the housing is being provided as well as the needs of the community at large.

Local and State authorities, for their part, should continue to respond constructively, pressing forward with innovative and positive approaches of their own. For it is they--and beyond them, it is millions of Americans individually--with whom the challenge primarily rests. We are dealing here in a realm in which Federal authority, while substantial in terms of enforcement, is very limited in terms of the many choices that must be made in each community.

There are some who assume that the Federal Government has the power to do anything it wants--or that they want. But we have maintained our freedom for nearly two centuries by insisting that the Federal Government's exercise of power not exceed its authority.

I believe in that principle. And because the authority of the Federal agencies is limited--quite properly, I believe--with respect to the essentially local and individual choices involved in local community planning, their power will be used in only limited ways.

This does not reduce the challenge to the States, the localities, and the people; it heightens it. For the task of making our communities livable, not for some but for all-of achieving our goals of decent homes and of open communities in a free and open society--this task summons the best that is in each and every one of us, in a cause that touches our soul as a Nation. We cannot afford to fail. I believe that together we can succeed.

Richard Nixon, Statement About Federal Policies Relative to Equal Housing Opportunity Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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