The following is a statement by NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill
This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. We call on the Court to use this case as an opportunity to continue our nation’s progress to ensure that all families have a fair opportunity to find a good place to call home.
In Mount Holly, the Court will review a key provision of the Fair Housing Act, which is our nation’s key tool to eradicate housing discrimination and promote more inclusive neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 as a testament to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the wake of his tragic assassination. Since then, our nation has made progress toward eliminating racial segregation and discrimination in housing. Yet, as our recent economic crisis has starkly revealed, predatory lending and other discriminatory practices continue to deny housing opportunities to people of color and isolate minority communities. This case comes at a particularly critical time as African-American families struggle to overcome the devastating effects of the recession on homeownership and wealth.
We will urge the Court to endorse the long-standing consensus that the “disparate impact” standard can be used to enforce the Fair Housing Act. “Disparate impact” occurs when government or private actors unjustifiably pursue practices that have a disproportionately harmful effect on communities of color and other groups protected by the Fair Housing Act. This standard is often used in challenging discrimination in mortgage lending, homeowners’ insurance, exclusionary zoning, redevelopment, and demolition of public housing.