The first section of the Fair Housing Act declares that "[i]t is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States." If the United States has been officially committed to providing for fair housing for the past 20 years, why is segregated housing still the prevailing norm throughout our nation? Why does discrimination still regularly occur when minority homeseekers venture into white areas? Why are the opportunities for living in stable, integrated neighborhoods only marginally better now than they were a generation ago in the days of Lyndon Johnson, Everett McKinley Dirksen, and Martin Luther King, Jr.? In short, why has the Fair Housing Act accomplished so little?
This conference is an attempt to address these important questions. Earlier panels discussed the roles of federal, state, and local governments in enforcing the Fair Housing Act. This panel will examine what private people and private organizations can do and why their roles are so crucial. In many ways, private efforts under the Act have been more successful than governmental enforcement. A recounting of the impressive isolated achievements of private persons and local fair housing organizations, however, must not lull us into a sense of complacency. The fundamental question remains: can a law that relies so heavily on private enforcement ever succeed in systematically attacking the widespread patterns of discrimination and segregation in America's housing?
Robert G. Schwemm, Private Enforcement and the Fair Housing Act, 6 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 375 (1988).