Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zasloff on the politics behind the 1968 Fair Housing Act

The Secret History of the Fair Housing Act is a new paper by Jonathan Zasloff, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Here's the abstract:
The dominant scholarly consensus holds that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was "toothless" and devoid of enforcement; in the words of the pre-eminent scholars of US housing segregation, it was "purposefully designed so that it would not and could not work." This Article demonstrates that this consensus is wrong, that in fact the Fair Housing Act contained ample enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, it reveals the "secret history" of the Fair Housing Act, namely, that it passed in 1968 not through Congressional perfidy but rather through a classic political deal between President Lyndon Johnson and Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen: Dirksen would support a compromise on fair housing in exchange for Johnson ensuring that Dirksen would face a weak opponent in his re-election bid. These conclusions force us to reconsider fundamentally the history of housing discrimination and segregation in the United States since the passage of the Act, and re-think how housing integration might be achieved in the future.
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