Small Town House Rural America Kansas

Trend Snapshot

While the Fair Housing Act sought to end housing discrimination in 1968, people of color and those with disabilities continue to contend with barriers that limit access to housing and prevents them from remaining in homes that meet their needs. The results of past explicitly discriminatory policies, as well as current implicitly discriminatory policies and actions remain prevalent. Rising housing costs only exacerbate the disparities. Left unaddressed, inequality in homeownership rates, housing cost burdens, and other indicators of housing instability will grow.  

These barriers manifest in homeownership, home appraisals, loan terms, housing stock, zoning laws and eviction rates, Black renters are more likely to face eviction than white renters. A cavernous 30 percentage point gap exists in homeownership between Black and White Americans, higher than it was prior to the civil rights movement.  People of color often receive less favorable terms than their white counterparts in real estate transactions including with home appraisals and loan application approvals. The dominance of single-family zoning limits housing diversity and choice by prohibiting the construction of multi-unit buildings, and these limitations often disproportionately affects people of color and those with disabilities. Finally, rates of housing instability, and homelessness are disproportionately high for people with disabilities.


  • The rise of social justice movements and associated media exposure surrounding racism provides an entry for addressing the discriminatory practices in housing.
Portrait of black grandmother with teenager granddaughter both are looking into the camera. Members of a black middle America family.


  • Systemic barriers and ageism limit housing options and residential model choice and may lead to substandard housing options, or homelessness.
    • Those who require specific accommodations (e.g., someone with physical disabilities) are particularly disadvantaged.
  • The political process can prevent the elevation of housing issues of certain groups within the community, making them harder to address.
    • Local decision making (e.g., zoning, codes) and a general lack of consideration of the impacts of individual decisions on overall housing choices leads to stymied conversation on critical housing topics, prevents the inclusion of a variety or voices and often fails to prioritize the issue of systemic barriers to housing access.
  • Housing disparities impact all other aspects of life, including disparate health outcomes, access to transportation, and other factors that drive income inequality.
  • Community desire to maintain status quo: Those who have been able to access quality housing in a high-opportunity community have strong incentives to maintain the status quo out of fear that any change will make them worse off.

What Can Be Done?

Policymakers have many ways to respond, including:

Implementing fines and other consequences for violating anti-discrimination sections of real property law 

Allocating funds for fair housing efforts

Redressing inequities spurred by racist past policies, such as:

  • Developing down-payment assistance programs
  • Investing in under-resourced neighborhoods 
  • Expanding housing options in high opportunity neighborhoods

Raising maximum fees for misconduct by real estate brokers

Funding incentives for the development and management of accessible housing to meet the needs of people with disabilities 

Requiring implicit bias training as part of real estate license renewal process

Changing zoning and land use regulations to increase the supply and variety of housing types.