“Agreement of the Subcommittee to the Conference on Fair Housing Convened by the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race”
This is the text of the agreement reached on August 26, 1966, between the Chicago Freedom Movement and the city of Chicago.
This subcommittee has been discussing a problem that exists in every metropolitan area in America. It has been earnestly seeking immediate, practical, and effective steps which can be taken to create a fair housing market in metropolitan Chicago.
In the City of Chicago itself, the policy of fair housing has been established by the clear statement of purpose in the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance enacted in 1963. It provides:
1. It is hereby declared the policy of the City of Chicago to assure full and equal opportunity to all residents of the City to obtain fair and adequate housing for themselves and their families in the City of Chicago without discrimination against them because of their race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry.
2. It is further declared to be the policy of the City of Chicago that no owner, lessee, sublessee, assignee, managing agent, or other person, firm or corporation having the right to sell, rent or lease any housing accommodation, within the City of Chicago, or any agent of any of these, should refuse to sell, rent, lease or otherwise deny or withhold from any person or group of persons such housing accommodations because of the race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry of such person or persons or discriminate against any person because of his race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale, rental on lease of any housing accommodation or in the furnishing of facilities or services in connection therewith.
The subcommittee has addressed itself to methods of making the Chicago Ordinance work better, the action which can be taken by various governmental groups, the role of the Chicago Real Estate Board, and how to make further progress towards fair housing in the months ahead. It would be too much to expect complete agreement on either the steps to be taken or their timing. Nevertheless, the representatives at the meetings have undertaken specific and affirmative measures to attack the problem of discrimination in housing. Carrying out these commitments will require substantial investments of time and money by both private and public bodies and the wholehearted effort of many Chicagoans of good will, supported by the cooperation of thousands of others.
In the light of the commitments made and program here adopted and pledged to achieve open housing in the Chicago metropolitan community, the Chicago Freedom Movement pledges its resources to help carry out the program and agrees to a cessation of neighborhood demonstrations on the issue of open housing so long as the program is being carried out.
The subcommittee believes that the program can be a major step forward. It has confidence that this program, and the more extensive measures bound to flow from it, will achieve the objective of affording every resident “full and equal opportunity to obtain fair and adequate housing without discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry.”
The participants in this conference have committed themselves to the following action:
1. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations is already acting to require every real estate broker to post a summary of the City’s policy on open housing and the requirements of the Fair Housing Ordinance in a prominent position in his place of business. To obtain full compliance with the Fair Housing Ordinance, the Commission will give special emphasis to multiple complaints and will follow up on pledges of non-discrimination resulting from prior conciliation proceedings. The Commission will increase its enforcement staff and has already requested budgetary increases to support a significantly higher level of effective enforcement activity. This will include year-around inquiry to determine the extent of compliance in all areas of the City, but without placing undue burdens on any broker’s business. The Commission will initiate proceedings on its own motion where the facts warrant. It will act on all complaints promptly, ordinarily initiating an investigation within 48 hours, as is now the case. In order to facilitate proceedings on complaints, it has changed its rules to provide for the substitution of attorneys for Commissioners to preside in conciliation and enforcement hearings. Where a formal hearing justifies such action under the ordinance, the license of an offending broker will be suspended or revoked.
The City will continue its consistent support of fair housing legislation at the State level and will urge the adoption of such legislation at the 1967 session of the State Legislature.
2. In a significant departure from its traditional position, the Chicago Real Estate Board announced at the August 17 meeting that its Board of Directors had authorized a statement reading in part as follows:
As a leadership organization in Chicago, we state the fundamental principle that freedom of choice in housing is the right of every citizen. We believe all citizens should accept and honor that principle.
We have reflected carefully and have decided we will—as a Chicago organization—withdraw all opposition to the philosophy of open occupancy legislation at the state level—provided it is applicable to owners as well as to brokers—and we reserve the right to criticize detail as distinguished from philosophy—and we will request the state association of Real Estate Boards to do likewise but we cannot dictate to them.
While not willing to dismiss its appeal from the decision of the Circuit Court of Cook County upholding the validity of the City’s Fair Housing Ordinance, the Board has committed itself effectively to remind its members of their duty to obey the ordinance and to circulate to them the interpretation of the ordinance to be furnished by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. The individual representatives of the Board also committed themselves to join other realtors to participate in a continuing organization, should one be formed, to promote effective action implementing the principle of freedom of choice in housing.
3. The Chicago Housing Authority will take every action within its power to promote the objectives of fair housing. -It recognizes that heavy concentrations of public housing should not again be built in the City of Chicago. Accordingly, the Chicago Housing Authority has begun activities to improve the character of public housing, including the scattering of housing for the elderly across the city, and initiation of a leasing program which places families in the best available housing without regard to the racial character of the neighborhood in which the leased facilities are provided. In the future, it will seek scattered sites for public housing and will limit the height of new public housing structures in high density areas to eight stories, with housing for families with children limited to the first two stories. Wherever possible, smaller units will be built.
In addition, in order to maximize the usefulness of present facilities and to promote the welfare of the families living in them, a concerted effort will be made to improve the opportunities for satisfactory community life in public housing projects. In order to achieve this improvement the participation of all elements in the surrounding communities will be actively enlisted and utilized.
4. The President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners has advised the chairman of the subcommittee by letter that the Cook County Department of Public Aid will make a renewed and persistent effort to search out the best housing for recipients available within the ceilings authorized by the legislature, regard-less of location. Each employee of the Department will be reminded that no recipient is to be prohibited or discouraged from moving into any part of Cook County because of his race, color or national origin. The Department will not be satisfied if recipients live in less satisfactory accommodations than would be available to them were they of a different race, color or national origin.
Department employees will be instructed to report any discriminatory refusal by real estate brokers to show rental listings to any recipient to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations or the State Department of Registration and Education through the Chief of the Bureau of Housing of the Public Aid Department. Department employees will also encourage recipients who en-counter discrimination in dealing with brokers to report such experiences to the same agencies. The Chief of the Bureau of Housing will maintain close follow-up on all matters that have been thus reported.
5. The Urban Renewal Program has had some success in achieving stable residential integration in facilities built in renewal developments, with the cooperation of property owners, property managers, community organizations, and neighbors to that end. The Urban Renewal Program will devote itself to producing the same results in its relocation activities and will earnestly solicit the support of all elements of the community in the City, County and metropolitan area in these efforts.
In relocating families, the Department of Urban Renewal will search out the best housing available regardless of location. Each employee of the Department will be reminded that no family is to be prohibited or discouraged from moving into any part of the Chicago metropolitan area because of his race, color, or national origin. Department employees will be instructed to report any discriminatory refusal by a real estate broker to show listings, to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations or the State Department of Registration and Education through the Director of Relocation. They will also encourage families who encounter discrimination in dealing with a broker to report such experiences to the same agencies. The Director of Relocation will maintain a close follow-up on all matters that have been thus reported.
6. The Cook County Council of Insured Savings Associations, by letter, and the Chicago Mortgage Bankers Association, at the Committee meeting on August 17, 1966, have affirmed that their policy is to provide equal service and to lend mortgage money to all qualified families, without regard to race, for the purchase of housing anywhere in the metropolitan area.
7. Assistant Attorney General Roger Wilkins, head of the Community Relations Service of the United States Department of Justice, has advised the chairman of the subcommittee that the Service will inquire into the questions raised, under existing law, with respect to service by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation to financial institutions found guilty of practicing racial discrimination in the provision of financial service to the public. While the matter is a complex one, it will be diligently pursued.
8. The leaders of the organized religious communities in the metropolitan area have already expressed their commitment to the principle of open housing.
The Chicago Conference on Religion and Race, which is co-sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the Church Federation of Greater Chicago, the Chicago Board of Rabbis and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, pledges its support to the program outlined and will enlist the full strength of its constituent bodies and their churches and synagogues in effecting equal access to housing in the metropolitan area for all people. They pledge to:
1. Educate their membership on the moral necessity of an open and just community.
2. Urge owners to sell or rent housing without racial restriction.
3. Support local real estate offices and lending institutions in their cooperation with this program.
4. Cooperate with and aid in the establishment of responsible community organizations and support them in the implementation of these programs.
5. Undertake to secure peaceful acceptance and welcome Negro families prior to and at the time of their entrance into any community.
6. Use their resources to help make housing available without racial discrimination.
7. Establish, within 30 days, one or more housing centers, with the assistance of the real estate and housing industry and financial institutions, to provide information and help in finding suitable housing for minority families and to urge them to take advantage of- new housing opportunities.
9. The representatives of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, the Commercial Club, the Cosmopolitan Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Mortgage Bankers Association, Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council, Chicago Federation of Labor and Industrial Union Council, and other secular groups represented in these discussions recognize that their organizations have a major stake in working out the problems of fair housing. Each such representative welcomes and pledges support to the program outlined in this report. Further, each undertakes to secure the support of his organization and its members, whether individuals, corporations, locals or groups, for the program and their participation in it, including education of their members on the importance to them of fair housing throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.
10. The Chicago Conference on Religion and Race will initiate forthwith the formation of a separate, continuing body, sponsored by major leadership organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area and built on a nucleus of the representatives of the organizations participating here. This body should accept responsibility for the execution and action programs necessary to achieve fair housing. It should be headed by a board consisting of recognized leaders from government, commerce, industry, finance, religion, real estate, labor, the civil rights movement, and the communications media. Its membership should reflect the diverse racial and ethnic composition of the entire Chicago metropolitan community.
The proposed board should have sufficient stature to formulate a strong and effective program and to provide adequate financing and staff to carry out that program. To the extent of available resources, it should carry forward programs such as, but not limited to, the convening of conferences on fair housing in suburban communities to the end that the policy of the City of Chicago on fair housing will be adopted in the whole Chicago metropolitan area. There must be a major effort in the pulpits, in the school systems, and in all other available forums to educate citizens of the metropolitan area in the fundamental principle that freedom of choice in housing is the right of every citizen and in their obligations to abide by the law and recognize the rights of others regardless of race, religion, or nationality. The group should assist in the drafting of fair housing laws and ordinances. It should make clear the stake that commerce, industry, banking, real estate, and labor, indeed all residing in the metropolitan area, have in the peaceful achievement of fair housing. The group should emphasize that the metropolitan housing market is a single market. The vigor and growth of that market is dependent upon an adequate supply of standard housing available without discrimination. The group should promote such practical measures as the development of fair housing centers after the model now being established by the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race. The group should in the immediate future set up specific goals for achievement of fair housing in the Chicago metropolitan area. Finally, the board should regularly review the performance of the program undertaken by governmental and non-governmental groups, take appropriate action thereon, and provide for public reports.
Although all of the metropolitan areas of the country are confronted with the problem of segregated housing, only in Chicago have the top leaders of the religious faiths, commerce, and industry, labor and government sat down together with leaders in the civil rights movement to seek practical solutions. With the start that has been made, the subcommittee is confident that the characteristic drive of Chicagoans to achieve their goals, manifest in the Chicago motto of “I Will,” will enable the Chicago metropolitan area ,to lead the rest of the nation in the solution of the problems of fair housing.
THOMAS G. AYERS,