In the United States, the fair housing (also open housing) policies date largely from the 1960s. Originally, the terms fair housing and open housing came from a political movement of the time to outlaw
discrimination in the rental or purchase of homes and a broad range of other housing-related transactions, such as advertising, mortgage lending, homeowner's insurance and zoning. Later, the same language was used in laws. At the urging of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) in April 1968, only one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Law of 1968 is to protect the dwelling seeker from seller or landlord discrimination. It does this by protecting the buyer's or renter's right to discriminate. The goal is a unitary housing market in which a person's background (as opposed to financial resources) does not arbitrarily restrict access. Calls for open housing were issued early in the twentieth century, but it was not until after World War II that concerted efforts to achieve it were undertaken.
When the Fair Housing Act was first enacted, it prohibited discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. In 1974, sex was added to the list of protected classes, and in 1988, disability and familial status (the presence or anticipated presence of children under 18 in a household) were added (further codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). In certain circumstances, the law allows limited exceptions for discrimination based on sex, religion, or familial status.