On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court made big moves for fair housing, ruling that the 1968 Fair Housing Act encompasses claims of unintentional discrimination through disparate impact, making the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs liable for how it allocated low-income housing tax credits.
The decision in the case, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, reaffirms over 40 years of unanimous case law and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s authoritative 2013 regulation concerning disparate impact claims. By affirming the applicability of the disparate impact standard under the FHA, the decision maintains the ability of our organizations to address continuing patterns of racial segregation identified long ago by the Kerner Commission’s report when it concluded that “[o]ur nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” These systemic practices of discrimination limit access to integrated neighborhoods, create barriers for educational opportunities and access to jobs, and continue the cycle of poverty for minority families in the United States.
“The Supreme Court has rightly recognized disparate impact claims and the important role they play in promoting fairness and inclusion in American society,” says Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel of the national Lawyers’ Committee. “Focusing on the effects of a policy or practice, rather than the intent behind it, is the most effective way of dismantling structural barriers to equal opportunity and is necessary because discrimination is often subtle and covert.”
“This is a tremendous victory for equal opportunity, and for the future of our nation,” says Housing expert Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda. “Upholding a strong and effective Fair Housing Act will continue to help move our country beyond a legacy of segregation and discrimination and toward opportunity for all. The Court majority correctly recognized the commonsense idea that unjustified obstacles to diverse, prosperous communities should be set aside in favor of inclusive approaches that work for everyone.
“The Court’s decision today underscores the bedrock American principle that the color of your skin, your religion, or other aspects of who you are should never determine your housing opportunities. At its core is the belief that all of us should have a chance to live in a neighborhood with the resources to thrive. It’s about all families—whatever they look like and wherever they come from—having an equal opportunity to seek a home and fair treatment in any neighborhood. And it’s about the diverse and thriving communities that are part of America’s strength in an interconnected country and world.”