On this day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order 11063, which mandates an end to discrimination in housing. The order, which came during the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, prohibited federally funded housing agencies from denying housing or funding for housing to anyone based on their race, color, creed or national origin.
Since the 1950s, American minorities, particularly African Americans, had been largely relegated to living in overcrowded inner-city ghettos or impoverished rural areas. The “American Dream” of owning a house in the suburbs, or even a small apartment in a safe city neighborhood was unobtainable for many minority families because federally funded lending agencies often refused to give minorities home loans. When Kennedy took office in 1960, he vowed to do more for civil rights than his predecessors. When he issued the order in 1962, Kennedy called discrimination in federal housing agencies unfair, unjust and inconsistent with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and bemoaned the disgraceful, substandard, unsafe and unsanitary housing in which most African Americans and other minorities were forced to live.
Although Kennedy’s order was a symbolic landmark for ending de facto segregation in housing, the policy was never enforced. The order left it up to the individual housing and funding agencies to police themselves, leaving much room for non-compliance from state to state. After his assassination in 1963, civil rights activists continued to lobby for integrated neighborhoods. It took Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, until 1968, however, to get a majority of Congress to support a fair housing law.