Fair Housing Act "Disparate Impact" Claims Survive Supremes; Proof Of Intent To Discriminate Unnecessary In Establishing Whether Housing Policies Have Substantially Greater Negative Effect On Protected Groups
- Civil rights groups won a victory Thursday, as the Supreme Court ruled that claims of racial discrimination in housing cases shouldn't be limited by questions of intent.
The court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision in a case in which a nonprofit group, the Inclusive Communities Project, said that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had contributed to "segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods."
The 5-4 ruling endorses the notion of citing disparate impact in housing cases, meaning that statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects — without proving that they're the result of discriminatory intentions.
"Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised many legal experts by siding with the court's four liberals," NPR's Carrie Johnson reports. "Business groups had long sought to limit lawsuits over the 1968 Fair Housing Act."
Reacting to the ruling, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says, "While our nation has made tremendous progress since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, disparate impact claims remain an all-too-necessary mechanism for rooting out discrimination in housing and lending."
The majority wrote, "Recognition of disparate-impact claims is consistent with the FHA's central purpose" of ending discriminatory practices in housing.
The justices wrote, "These unlawful practices include zoning laws and other housing restrictions that function unfairly to exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods without any sufficient justification."
But the dissenting justices say that Thursday's ruling creates a legal liability that wasn't intended in the original 1968 law. [...]
For the court ruling, see Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, No. 13–1371 (June 25, 2015).