By Melvina Ford, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center

It is a simple fact that zip codes matter. When my now four-year-old son was about to be born, I drove a bit of distance to deliver him at a hospital that I handpicked for its high quality medical care. Shortly after I had my son, I had to take a trip in the back of an ambulance to a much closer hospital in my own neighborhood that I was not particularly fond of.  Today, both my son and I are wonderfully healthy, but we have since moved to a neighborhood with a hospital that I know provides superior medical care (which is convenient, as my son believes that a super hero costume actually gives him the power to fly).

The point of this story is that zip codes matter.  They matter to the quality of health care you receive. They matter to the education your children get.  They even matter when it comes to quality of the produce you buy at the local grocery store.

Today marks the 46th anniversary of passage of the Fair Housing Act. This landmark piece of legislation ensures the right of any individual to choose where they live, free from unlawful discriminatory treatment. It challenges the patterns of segregation and poverty that so often result from housing discrimination, and it highlights our responsibility —as both advocates and professionals that deal in housing issues every day—to ensure that we are fostering diverse, healthy and inclusive communities.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in the Fairfax County Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs’ Annual Fair Housing Month Training and Luncheon with colleagues from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. It was a privilege to count myself in the company of individuals who work so tirelessly to promote fair housing for all individuals.

At the event, representatives from HUD spoke about their proposed rule Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), which will provide measurable data to help guide communities in fulfilling one of the original promises of the Fair Housing Act — to affirmatively promote diverse and inclusive communities. The rule would also make clear that entities that choose to seek federal taxpayer funds for housing and community development projects have an obligation to protect fair housing and expand opportunity for all.

Fair housing is much more than a collection of legal jargon and detailed regulations. It is the belief that all people should have the right to choose where they live free from unlawful discrimination, because we all know that zip codes matter.

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