Are The Fair Housing Laws Unconstitutional? Probably.
Yesterday, Karen Fiddler wrote a featured post, I Can't Tell You That....The Fair Housing Act Lost Me A Client, But I Keep My License. Karen talks about a situation that many of us find ourselves in all too often, and she did the right thing as far as following the letter of the law.
But was it the right thing for the clients?
Let me start off by saying that I have no problem whatsoever with what I think the purpose of these laws are: to keep home buyers from being kept out of a neighborhood they want to live in because of their looks, religion, or issues that are among the various "protected classes" in state and federal laws. Many of them were passed during a period when blockbusting, steering, and even restrictive covenants were working to keep various ethnic and religious groups out of some neighborhoods where they wanted to live - bad and wrong, we can all agree.
But fast forward to today and they way we are being trained to interpret our responsibilities under these laws.
What about people who want to live in the gayborhood? Or not? Or if they want to be sure they are buying a home in an area where their neighbors won't resent their living there? What if they are looking for a place among other young families with young children theirs can play with? What if they want to live in a community with other people who speak their native languages?
They cannot have that conversation with the one person they are trusting to help them find their perfect place? When my mother was looking for a new place, I couldn't this conversation with her!
One of my clients is a prominent attorney who has taught at some of the nation's top law schools. When he and his wife were looking for a place in downtown DC, he was incredulous. These laws, he believes, are a huge infringement upon the right of free speech. And he is probably right.
I am certainly not advocating that we begin to freely exercise this possible right of free speech and jeopardize our real estate licenses in the process. But I do think it's time for state and local legislators to take another look at these laws to try to figure out a better way to accomplish the intent - eliminating housing discrimination - while removing some of the unintended consequences that make it harder for us to provide a high level of service to our clients, no matter who they are or where they want to live.