April is Fair Housing Month.
It commemorates the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 barring housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and other protected classes.
There certainly has been progress made when it comes to housing discrimination since the law was approved more than 50 years ago.
But there is still progress to be made and problems with housing here on the Eastern Shore and across the region. There are unfortunately landlords and property managers who still discriminate against prospective and existing tenants because of the color of their skin, ancestry, religious faith or other protected traits.
In some communities, some property owners avoid advertising rental properties. Sometimes those stealth listings aim to skirt fair housing anti-discrimination laws. It happens on the Shore and in other communities.
When housing discrimination arises (including discriminatory mistreatment and harassment of existing tenants), it needs to be more aggressively investigated and prosecuted.
There is no excuse for mistreating our neighbors.
It is also illegal.
Landlords and property managers who allow or facilitate the mistreatment of tenants by other tenants based on their race, religion or ethnicity can also run into legal troubles.
But the housing challenges on the Shore go beyond better enforcing fair housing laws.
We need more “workforce housing” for those looking to move to the Shore for jobs. Our communities lack housing options not only for entry level and lower-paid workers who are key to our economy, but we also lack housing for middle class employees who want to work here on the Shore.
That includes teachers, health care workers and professional employees who simply cannot find affordable housing (especially rentals) on the Shore.
This is an issue our Shore needs to address quickly and responsibly. This is a challenge that needs the private sector working with community nonprofits.
Our communities also need to make sure our neighbors’ homes and apartments are safe.
The recent tragic fire in Cambridge — which killed a teenage girl, a 8-year-old girl and man — highlights concerns about safe and affordable housing across the peninsula and state.
The cause of the fire is still being determined, but the deadly blaze is a stark reminder of some of the housing situations some of our neighbors face.
We need our towns and counties to take code enforcements that relate to the health and safety of tenants more seriously. They need to allocate more resources to code enforcements that are about protecting the public.
Housing is a challenge on the Shore. We need to keep combatting discriminatory practices and find ways for more affordable and safe housing across our communities.