The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is tightly wound in with affordable housing. If it weren’t for the changes that MLK brought to our civil rights, we wouldn’t have our equal housing laws. Discrimination in housing would be far more rampant.
Many consider the Chicago Freedom Movement, also known as the Chicago Open Housing Movement, to be one of Dr. King’s greatest moments and this massive demonstration is often credited as the inspiration for the Fair Housing Act.
The Chicago Freedom Movement was an alliance of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, American Friends Service Committee, and the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations that aimed to abolish racial inequality and bring change and equality to key issues of living including housing, education, transportation, employment, and quality of life. The Chicago Freedom Movement lasted from 1965 to 1967. During the course of the movement, MLK placed a list of demands on the door of Chicago City Hall. That list included:
- Public statements that all real estate listings be available on a nondiscriminatory basis.
- Public statements of a nondiscriminatory mortgage policy so that loans will be available to any qualified borrower without regard to the racial composition of the area.
- Publication of headcounts of whites, Negroes and Latin Americans for all city departments and for all firms from which city purchases are made.
- Revocation of contracts with firms that do not have a full scale fair employment practice.
- Creation of a citizens review board for grievances against police brutality and false arrests or stops and seizures.
- Ordinance giving ready access to the names of owners and investors for all slum properties.
- A saturation program of increased garbage collection, street cleaning, and building inspection services in the slum properties.
- Program to rehabilitate present public housing including such items as locked lobbies, restrooms in recreation areas, increased police protection and child care centers on every third floor.
- Program to increase vastly the supply of low-cost housing on a scattered basis for both low and middle income families.
- Basic headcounts, including white, Negro and Latin American, by job classification and income level, made public.
- Racial steps to upgrade and to integrate all departments, all levels of employments.
The results of the Chicago Freedom Movement and all of Dr. King’s work would go on to influence the creation of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act provides equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or marital status. This act has changed the lives and created opportunity for many people, especially non-white, non-male, and low-income people.
Dr. King stands out not only for his work to end racism and segregation but for his dream of improvement of life for all persons. It is because of his dream, vision, and love that we have a provision that ensures everyone man, woman, and child in the U.S. has a greater opportunity to live a healthy and safe life.