“The ordinance has been part of a national campaign promoted by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty.”
U.S. and California History Directly Impacts Housing Instability during COVID-19
We are one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the foundation of California’s precarious housing policies are crumbling, leaving a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) with low incomes vulnerable to mass evictions, housing instability, and homelessness.
It’s a sad reality, but not surprising since California’s housing laws and policies were built on a foundation of racism and white supremacy. Colonization and land theft by European settlers led to the devastation and genocide of Native communities, and planted seeds for centuries of racialized housing practices that we still see today. Generations of government sponsored housing segregation and private discrimination keep BIPOC communities in poverty, contribute to the racial wealth gap, and is a direct cause of housing instability for BIPOC communities during this deadly pandemic.
BIPOC communities are the hardest hit by the pandemic, which is partially a result of historic and current political decisions to uphold white supremacy within housing policies. To understand how and why we are facing an immense economic and housing crisis for millions of people within our communities, we must understand and accept that the housing system was sanctioned by the government to keep BIPOC communities segregated. Only then can we begin to heal and work toward a more equitable future.
In 1934, the federal government created the Federal Housing Administration, which is often applauded for making home-ownership accessible to many Americans by guaranteeing home loans. But the FHA explicitly refused to guarantee home loans for Black people or to even insure mortgages in white neighborhoods where Black people were present. The policy ensured that neighborhoods were racially segregated, often to the detriment of Black neighborhoods. If a Black family could afford to purchase a home, exclusionary zoning kept them out of white neighborhoods, forcing them into devalued, low-income neighborhoods. That had a profound impact on Black families’ ability to acquire wealth through homeownership, and in turn prevented them from passing down generational wealth. Black families today have disproportionately less generational wealth than white families, placing them at increased vulnerability for economic crashes and job insecurity as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only did the federal government obstruct homeownership for Black families, but local governments in California, particularly in the Bay Area, also promoted racial segregation, which kept Black Californians in poverty. In the 1940s, the city of Richmond, California, led by the federal government, created racially segregated neighborhoods to accommodate the growing Black population. However, those publicly funded buildings were poorly built and resembled shanties. Communities were also created for white war workers that explicitly forbade any newly constructed homes from being rented to Black people, forcing Black people to rely more and more on public housing, blocking upward financial mobility.
San Francisco, one of the most liberal and forward-thinking cities in the Bay Area, intentionally segregated Black communities by forcing them into public housing in Hunters Point and the Western Addition. These local policies created “ghettos” whereby Black families were forced to remain in “undesirable,” poverty stricken urban neighborhoods. Now those neighborhoods are facing unprecedented attacks, enduring economic devastation from the pandemic and increasing gentrification and displacement from the same developers who undervalued the neighborhoods.
Those racially discriminatory practices did not end, but continue to impact Black communities today. In 2008, many Black neighborhoods were devastated by the financial collapse caused by predatory subprime mortgages. Since many Black families lost their homes and savings, they were thrust into housing instability with little to no financial safety nets. The federal government did not provide support for low-income residents harmed by predatory lending, but instead decided to bail out the predators – the banks. In a particularly appalling move, the federal government sold those foreclosed properties to large private equity firms, rather than non-profit developers or residents, allowing corporate landlords to monopolize the housing market.
Today, corporate landlords use homeownership and “house-flipping” as a way to further concentrate their wealth on the backs of BIPOC communities, causing long-term harm. Due to these policies, our communities have a rational fear that another housing crisis similar to 2008 is coming, which will lead to more corporate ownership of California’s scarce housing stock.
Since BIPOC communities are being sold to corporate owners, many BIPOC people must rent, which also causes housing instability. Housing instability stems from the tangible problem that people simply cannot afford rent. Since 1990, rent prices in California have skyrocketed as wages stay primarily stagnant. For example, in 1990, the average one-bedroom apartment was $799; today that same one bedroom is $1400.
Studies show that Black renters pay more for housing than white renters for units with similar characteristics in similar neighborhoods, simply because the renter is Black. Additionally, the median income for Black renter households was $32,140, compared to $42,000 for Hispanic renter households, $45,000 for white renter households, and $62,220 for Asian renter households. In 2018, the California Housing Partnership Corporation found that renters need to make 3.5% the minimum wage, or about $38.54/hour to afford median rents.
Given the high cost of rent, it’s no surprise that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many California tenants struggled to pay rent in an increasingly expensive and hostile housing market. In December 2020, 1.1 million California households were behind on rent, owing an estimated $7.3 Billion in arrears.
The high price of rent is not the only problem when analyzing housing affordability and instability for renters, other costs such as utilities, access to transportation, rental application fees, security deposits, etc. all contribute to unaffordable costs of housing. Approximately 17 million Californians are renters, and 1 in 4 are considered severely housing cost burdened, paying over half of their income on housing prior to the pandemic — Black (59%) and Latinx (57%) households are the most housing cost burdened.
Since BIPOC communities are forced to pay more of their income towards housing costs, their quality of life is deteriorated. Often, our communities are forced to live in substandard conditions, which impacts health and job opportunities. Many people of color live in conditions where they are exposed to mold, lead, pests, and lack basic necessities like heat and running water, resulting in illness and death. Families are forced to pick between paying rent or going to the doctor for basic health needs, which is especially important during a global health crisis. Due to the high cost of housing, some families are forced into overcrowding, which can lead to an increased exposure to infectious diseases. Our communities are forced to deal with a trifecta of crises all highlighted by the pandemic and rooted in racism.
Even though many tenants are housing cost burdened, federal, state and local governments have dramatically cut spending on publicly funded affordable housing. While public housing has a history of racial exclusion and criminalization, it is a critical safety net for people of color with low-incomes because it provides the opportunity for families to pay lower housing costs while maintaining safe and stable housing. Since the 1970s, funding for public or subsidized housing has drastically declined and policy makers have failed to restore it. Today, California has fewer than 300,000 units of public housing and about 219 public housing projects. It’s no coincidence that there is a lack of funding for public and subsided housing considering that people of color are often those who reside in them.
However, public housing is not without its own history of racism. The War on Drugs is famously known for the criminalization of Black and Latinx communities, and it also had a secondary effect of influencing public housing policies. Beginning with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which sought to terminate the “reign of terror “of criminal activity in public housing communities, HUD authorized grants for public housing authorities to actively investigate and eliminate drug crimes in public housing authorities. A consequence was over-policing, deliberate harassment, and targeting of people of color in public housing communities.
The Cranston-Gonzales Act of 1990 expanded the definition of eviction to “include any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment”. Public housing authorities were also granted the authority and discretion to terminate tenancy if a family member or guest of the tenant was engaging in drug-related criminal activity, regardless of if the family member or guest was under the tenant’s control.
Now, nuisance ordinances are used to further target communities of color. Citations of minor violations like excessive noise, parking multiple cars in the parking lot, or having items on a patio are used to harass communities of color. Since those evictions are based on something other than non-payment of rent, tenants are still being evicted during a pandemic because renter protections do not apply to them.
In a broader sense, evictions further compound racial segregation in housing. Evictions systemically target people of color — in San Francisco, 24% of Latinx households and 21% of Black households were threatened with eviction from 2013-2018, compared to only 12% of white households.
In courts across California, you can see the racial disparities. As a former tenants’ attorney in Los Angeles, the majority of my clients who were evicted were Black women and Latinx families, and the landlords were white. This is particularity atrocious considering that most tenants are unrepresented. Many are left at the mercy of unjust renter protections, an inaccessible and confusing court system, and potential homelessness.
Insufficient legal protections for renters, plus a lack of financial support from the government, plus the preexisting affordable housing crisis and looming economic recession may lead to even more devastating effects on BIPOC renters for generations to come. Lack of financial support and government intervention could also lead to an increased rate of eviction, particularly for BIPOC renters already experiencing cost burdens. The combination of increased rent burdens on top of already high rent will lead to inevitable displacement and homelessness among BIPOC renters.
Despite the history, we have a chance to change our future. To create a more equitable housing system and heal from the past, we must work together to strengthen our housing policies for communities of color, and actively fight against racist and discriminatory policies. As we’ve seen with shelter-in-place orders, housing is literally a matter of life or death. Governments need to ensure that all people have access to safe, stable, and affordable housing.
Second, the pandemic has shown that evictions lead to death, so we must expand renter protections and rent forgiveness, and end discriminatory housing policies. Finally, the voices of communities of color must be central in creating solutions to affordable housing. We need to place decision making power back into communities to assist in planning, administering and creating housing policies that honor and stabilize our communities.
We can use momentum from the unprecedented nature of the COVID pandemic to fix our broken housing policies, the question is, will we?
 Richard Rothstein, The Color of the Law A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2018).
 Sophia Weeden, Black and Hispanic Renters Face the Greatest Threat of Eviction in Pandemic, (2021), https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/black-and-hispanic-renters-face-greatest-threat-eviction-pandemic
 National Equity Atlas (2021), The Coming Wave of COVID-19 Evictions: A Growing Crisis for Families in California, https://nationalequityatlas.org/research/analyses/COVID-19-evictions-california
 Amee Chew, Chione Lucina Munoz Flegal, Facing Hisotry, Uprooting Inequality: A Path to Housing Justice in California, (2020) https://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/pl_report_calif-housing_101420a.pdf
 Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub. L. 100-690, 102 Stat. 4181 Ibid. § 5122 (1988). 42 U.S.C. §§ 1190-03 (2012)
 Sarah Clinton, Evicting the Innocent: Can the Innocent Tenant Defense Survive a Rucker Preemption Challenge?, 85 B. U. L. Rev. 293, 297 (2005)
 See Pub. L. No. 101-625, §. 503, 104 Stat. 4079, 4184-85 (1990); See e.g. Hous. Auth. of Joilet v. Chapman, 780 N.E. 2d. 1106, 1108 (Ill App. Ct. 2002) (holding that public housing residents can be terminated for the criminal conduct of her guest regardless of whether the tenant had control of the guest); See also, Bennington Hous. Auth. v. Bush, 933 A.2d 207, 212-214 (Vt. 2007) (finding that a housing authority can evict an entire family for the misdeeds of one family member).
 San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco Housing Needs and Trends Report, (2018), https://default.sfplanning.org/publications_reports/Housing-Needs-and-Trends-Report-2018.pdf
Controversy Over Who Gets Access To Amenities Surrounds Downtown High-Rise Project
“But the so-called poor-door approach — having a separate entrance and limited access to facilities — might be violating federal fair housing laws, said Sasha Harnden, a housing policy advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
“When a given action may have a disproportionate impact on a protected class, such as people of a certain race, elderly tenants, families with children, that can incur fair housing liability, that can be a prohibited practice even if it’s not intentional discrimination,” he said.”
It’s Now Illegal For LA Landlords To Deny Housing Vouchers — But Some Still Are
“That’s definitely a violation of this law,” said Sasha Harnden, a housing policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. He advocated for the passage of the statewide voucher anti-discrimination law, SB-329, which went into effect on Jan. 1.
“Any advertisements that are still out there that say ‘No Section 8’ or ‘No Housing Assistance’ are a pretty clear violation of this new protection,” he said.
Proposed rule will make combating fair housing discrimination much harder
Op-ed co-authored by Western Center housing attorney Matt Warren.
Western Center Submits Comments to HUD Opposing Changes to Disparate Impact in Fair Housing
To read Western Center’s full comments, click here. An excerpt can be found below:
The Fair Housing Act was passed in the wake of Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination with the goal of moving closer to some of the ideals he gave his life to pursue – ending segregation and ensuring that all people could live in the community of their choice regardless of the color of their skin. This landmark civil rights law has been a critical tool in moving towards a more integrated nation where everyone can live in the community of their choice; but we have a long way to go before realizing its goals. HUD’s proposed rule profoundly undermines the Fair Housing Act (FHA). If finalized, the rule will make enforcement of the FHA’s protections impossible except in cases where the perpetrator of discriminatory conduct announces their ill intent. Corporate interests, including the insurance companies that this Rule appears intended to benefit, are too sophisticated to state their intent to discriminate.
Courts have recognized for the past half-century that the Fair Housing Act should be interpreted to reach conduct where a protected group is disproportionately harmed even through no intent to discriminate can be clearly shown. As the Supreme Court recognized in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, disparate impact liability is critical to address those issues at the “heartland” of the Fair Housing Act. While HUD professes to be implementing the Supreme Court’s decision with this proposal, it is in fact undermining and eviscerating the concept of disparate impact liability and the ICP decision. If this Rule is finalized, the Fair Housing Act will be much more difficult to enforce. With this proposal, HUD is abdicating its duty to further enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.
Western Center’s Housing Bills Become Law, Creating Landmark Renter Protections for Californians
By Madeline Howard, Western Center housing attorney
This week, Governor Newsom signed two historic renter protections into California law, both of which Western Center proudly co-sponsored, both decades in the making.
Assemblymember David Chiu’s AB 1482 is getting most of the attention because it establishes something many housing advocates never thought we would see in California – statewide protection from “no cause” evictions, and anti-rent gouging protections. Without these protections, most California landlords could evict a tenant without stating a reason – even long-term tenants who always paid their rent on time and followed all of the rules. And across the state, we’ve seen Californians indirectly evicted from their homes when rents are raised by 50, even 100 percent. The passage of AB 1482 will halt this unsustainable trajectory to keep more people in their homes.
The second of our bills that was signed into law is Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 329. SB 329 was also an uphill battle, because so many people have unfounded negative perceptions about the federal housing voucher program, and many landlords openly state “No Section 8” in their rental listings.* SB 329 will prevent that from now on. Just as landlords are not permitted to discriminate against rental applicants because of things like race and gender, now California has outlawed discrimination based on a person’s use of housing assistance to pay the rent.
If you are wondering why SB 329 is such a big deal, let me explain. Remember the horrifying photos of a suburban police officer in Texas kneeling on a young black girl’s back as she cried, face down on the grass, in her bathing suit? Someone in the mostly-white neighborhood had called the police on the group of black teenagers for being “rowdy.” Why am I reminding you of yet another ugly incident of police brutality, violent racism, and white supremacy? Because one of those white neighbors reportedly yelled, “Go back to your Section 8 housing!”
SB 329 matters because it addresses this kind of racism head on. While our fair housing laws have long made it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to someone because of their race, California landlords were still free to say “No Section 8.”
In a chilling echo of the blatant discrimination that dominated centuries of American history, many signs and online rental listings openly say “no dogs, no Section 8.” SB 329 is important not just because it will help low income people who rely on housing vouchers actually access housing of their choice (which is hugely important on its own), but also because it addresses an ugly vestige of our deeply racist housing industry.
Our amazing housing policy advocate Sasha Harnden worked tirelessly to get SB 329 into place, because in his time as a legal services attorney in LA, he saw firsthand how clients were repeatedly turned away from housing because of landlords’ “No Section 8” policies. We are hopeful that despite the continuous rollback of civil rights on the federal level, this step forward for California will help thousands of people find and keep stable, safe, affordable housing with their vouchers, and that SB 329 will be a powerful tool for combating housing discrimination. There is so much more work to be done, but with this law we move closer to tackling segregation and racist, exclusionary practices in housing.
Just as California takes huge steps to address discrimination in housing, the Trump administration threatens to undermine decades of Civil Rights protections under the Fair Housing Act by gutting the Disparate Impact rule. To get involved in the fight to stop this civil rights rollback, visit www.fightforhousingjustice.org.
In California, we are deeply grateful to Senator Holly Mitchell for her incredible leadership on the issue of housing voucher discrimination, and I am immensely proud of my colleagues in Sacramento, Sasha Harnden and Anya Lawler, who worked so hard to make these bills happen. In the midst of the state’s housing crisis, people shouldn’t be turned away from stable housing because they need rental assistance. California is an expensive state to live in, and it’s only getting worse. The relief renters can access through various federal, state, and local housing voucher programs is an important tool in California’s fight to keep people housed and off the street. I am so proud to be a part of the team that made these historic wins happen, and I am excited to see what we can build on from here.
* The federal housing choice voucher program was previously known as “Section 8” and many people still refer to it that way.
The Trump administration is threatening the right to Fair Housing. We’re fighting back. You can too.
By Matt Warren, Western Center Housing Attorney
I’m a bit of a nester. I spend a lot of time thinking about my lived environment — how to make my office more productive, my home cozier. I obsess over the color of light bulbs, indoor plant selections, and furniture placement.
I’m also a housing attorney, so I think a lot about where and how people find and create a safe home for themselves, and how they establish their own sense of cozy.
The sites, conditions, and availability of housing in our country (and throughout the world) have long been limited based on socially-defined characteristics: gender, occupation, physical or mental ability, race, country of origin, family composition, religion. These characteristics and more have shaped the places and communities where people live in the United States. Perhaps more importantly, they also shape the limits of where people cannot live, and the condition of the housing they can access.
The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), initially adopted on the heels of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of our most important tools to fight against the discrimination and limitations that have defined housing practices in our country’s history. The FHA is a foundational tool for advancing housing opportunities for entire communities. Housing advocates use the FHA to challenge the practices of landlords who unfairly refuse potential tenants, the lending practices of banks that prey on vulnerable groups, and zoning changes by local governments that limit equitable opportunity.
In August, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency tasked with upholding and advancing the FHA, proposed a rule that would dramatically change the way that the FHA can be used. Courts and HUD have interpreted the FHA as including the “disparate impact” theory of housing discrimination for decades, but the new rule proposes to severely limit how and when victims of discrimination can sue under this theory.
Disparate impact is discrimination that occurs when a facially neutral practice has a discriminatory effect on a protected class. Examples of disparate impact include occupancy standards that exclude families by restricting the number of people allowed to live in a unit together, the practice of targeting historically segregated minority neighborhoods for predatory loans using zip codes or other proxies, landlord screening policies that exclude persons with criminal histories (this is particularly discriminatory since Blacks and Latinos are incarcerated at disproportionate rates), and cities limiting construction of multi-family housing that is affordable for working-class people — a majority of whom are people of color.
Proving discrimination using disparate impact has become essential in civil rights enforcement. As described by Justice Kennedy in Texas DHCA v. Inclusive Communities Project (2015), “It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment. In this way disparate-impact liability may prevent [discrimination] that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping.”
HUD’s proposed rule includes a lot of changes to existing law. First, instead of providing a clarifying interpretation of the law, the rule adds a five-element test for plaintiffs at the pleading stage. Right now, victims of discrimination can move forward with a claim if they’re able to show that a practice caused a discriminatory effect. The new five-part test would require them to essentially know the inner workings of the often complex entities in charge of their housing before they head to court, which will result in fewer cases. Second, the proposed rule attempts to erase part of the disparate impact theory entirely so practices that “perpetuate segregation” are no longer actionable.
Third, the proposed rule would make it easier for entities facing allegations of disparate impact discrimination to evade responsibility for their actions. Part of the proposed rule allows a business entity to evade responsibility for discriminatory impacts if they use an algorithm to deny someone a housing opportunity. Algorithms are routinely used for housing decisions, many of which reflect and maintain existing disparities in the housing market. Think of it this way: because of redlining and other historical disadvantages, people of color have been explicitly and systematically excluded from credit-building opportunities compared to white counterparts. Algorithms that base loan decisions on existing creditworthiness perpetuate disparities in access to loans, meaning historical disadvantages continue and deepen. HUD’s proposal would shield actors who rely on these algorithms from liability.
All of these changes are aimed at making it more difficult to allege discrimination, while limiting liability for landlords, banks, and insurance companies. It will make it more difficult for people to find and create homes by allowing housing-related businesses to unfairly limit where and how they can live.
The proposed rule impacts other areas of law as well. Victims of discrimination in employment and education have also utilized disparate impact theory to level the playing field. These areas of law borrow significantly from each other, with many advocates and courts pointing across subjects for the persuasive authority of similar discrimination cases. Even though HUD’s proposed rule specifically targets housing discrimination enforcement, it will have serious impacts on the interpretation of disparate impact in other civil rights fields.
The proposed rule is also hugely significant because it weakens our ability to combat racism. Racism and white supremacy are baked into our country’s identity, impacting our sub-conscious, our interpersonal interactions, our institutions, and our broader social systems. Racism has traditionally been understood as blatant and intentional discrimination against minorities—but now, sophisticated housing providers know not to overtly treat people differently, and discrimination often takes the form of “neutral” policies that end up harming people of color. It’s still profitable to discriminate against people of color and other protected minorities because those groups have less access to social benefits and wealth. By maintaining these kinds of race-neutral policies, businesses reinforce historical advantages of whites while perpetuating disadvantages of people of color.
The proposed rule change reflects this administration’s favoritism toward real-estate businesses, but it also reveals white fragility in action. The proposed rule attempts to impose the intent standard on all allegations of discrimination, shielding “color-blind” policies that preserve an inequitable status quo. It ignores that differential treatment of people of color continues to happen at subconscious levels, focusing the standard instead on differential treatment.
The disparate impact standard remains relevant because acts that perpetuate discrimination have continuing, real, and negative impacts even where there is no malicious intent. HUD’s proposed changes to the disparate impact rule facilitates systemic oppression via banal intentions.
The only positive thing to say about the proposed rule is that it is not yet in effect. HUD is in the process of soliciting comments, until October 18, 2019, to comply with the requirements for adopting administrative rules. You can have an impact on the proposed rule by submitting a comment to HUD explaining why it would have a harmful impact on you, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your tenants, your clients, or your community.
Our team at Western Center on Law & Poverty is partnering with the National Housing Law Project and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law on the Fight for Housing Justice Campaign. We’ve created a website that includes resources, as well as a comment portal that allows you to submit your comment to HUD. It is vital that HUD hear from as many people as possible.
Please help us fight against this attempt by the Trump administration to limit housing choice; expanding housing choice is essential for creating a more equitable country, and safe, secure housing is fundamental to our humanity. Let’s make sure everyone has a place to cozy up, fuss over lighting, and obsess over where the couch should go.
Statement on Trump Administration’s Proposed Rule Change for Fair Housing
The Trump Administration has proposed a new rule interpreting an important civil rights theory in a way that would significantly weaken enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws. The rule would make it more difficult to allege and prove discrimination by a housing provider.
For more than 50 years, the Fair Housing Act has served as a vital tool in expanding housing opportunity for protected groups. In that time, the shape of housing discrimination has shifted away from overt, differential treatment, as sophisticated housing providers no longer advertise their intent to exclude protected classes. Housing discrimination increasingly takes the form of “disparate impact,” where a facially-neutral policy or practice has an adverse impact on minorities. The ability to allege discrimination via disparate impact is incredibly important for enforcing fair housing laws.
The Administration’s proposed rule increases the standard for bringing a disparate impact suit to the point that it would become, in practice, close to impossible. It suggests that landlords, banks, insurance companies, and other powerful entities should not be responsible for the discriminatory housing practices they perpetuate, and ignores the fact that housing segregation in the United States remains ubiquitous, and access to housing unequal. The underlying patterns, practices, and problems that create segregated housing have not been solved, especially for people of color – the proposed rule disregards that reality.
The proposal includes multiple provisions that limit civil rights enforcement, including:
- Transforming the current, three-part, burden-shifting test into a five-part prima facie evidentiary test that would require a plaintiff to identify and demonstrate that a specific policy has a discriminatory outcome in order to move past pleading;
- Forcing plaintiffs to plead a “robust causal link” between the defendant’s housing practice and the resulting injury;
- Limiting liability for housing providers when they rely on automated decision-making systems and algorithms that perpetuate discrimination in the housing market;
- Providing insurance companies some safe harbor from liability where they can assert compliance with state law; and
- Changing the strong vicarious liability standard in fair housing law to a piecemeal, state-by-state assessment of agency-principal liability.
These changes, largely inconsistent with existing case law, inhibit civil rights enforcement by making it more difficult for victims of discrimination to bring their case to court.
The proposal is in line with the Trump administration’s attitude toward American race relations – which is either to ignore it or exacerbate it. The proposed rule assumes racism and discrimination are things of the past, and that all that we need to do now is passively denounce overt racism. That fantasy ignores the reality of discrimination in the contemporary United States, particularly within the housing market. It also ignores a growing body of implicit bias research that says preferences against people of color are deeply ingrained in our society, and that deliberate intervention is necessary to prevent such bias from determining social outcomes.
California and the rest of the nation is in the midst of a housing crisis. Additionally, the majority of people in California are part of a protected minority group, but the people with power, money, and influence are still disproportionately white. Without active protections, that dynamic is a recipe for discrimination and stagnation. This proposed rule would cripple access to housing at a time when California and the country can’t afford to lose any ground in the quest to keep people housed.
The proposed rule has not yet been adopted. We and our partners in California and beyond will fight vigorously against the rule as it makes its way through the administrative process. Stay tuned for updates on how you can comment and advocate for the preservation of this essential civil rights enforcement tool.