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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.