Friday, June 26, 2015

SUPREME COURT - On Housing Enforcement

"Will this Supreme Court ruling lead to greater fair housing enforcement?" PBS NewsHour 6/25/2015


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court ruled today that housing discrimination doesn't have to be intentional for plaintiffs to be able to sue.  Gwen Ifill gets background on the case from Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal, then Hari Sreenivasan gets two views on the ruling from Ralph W. Kasarda of Pacific Legal Foundation and Olatunde Johnson of Columbia Law School.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The justices also ruled on another significant aspect of American life, housing segregation.

As we mentioned earlier, a closely divided court found that housing discrimination, whether it occurs by zoning or home sales, doesn’t have to be intentional for plaintiffs to sue.

And, again, we turn to Marcia Coyle.

Tell us about that case.

MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal:  OK.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal to refuse to sell or rent a house, an apartment dwelling when there’s been a legitimate offer because of someone’s race, national origin, color.  It’s been clear for a long time that you can bring intentional discrimination claims under that act.

But intentional discrimination is very difficult to prove.  You have to get into somebody’s motive or mind.  What’s not been so clear to some is whether you can bring another type of claim, what we call disparate impact claim.

GWEN IFILL:  My first definition from you, I want.  Explain what that is.

MARCIA COYLE:  Right.  Exactly.

That’s a claim that says a policy or a decision that appears neutral on its face has a discriminatory effect on someone.

GWEN IFILL:  Give me an example.

MARCIA COYLE:  Well, in this case, all right, the claim is that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is giving tax credits, federal tax credits to developers to develop low-income housing, but it’s giving most of those tax credits to develop low-income housing in predominantly black low-income neighborhoods, and not trying to steer more tax credits to development in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods.

Is the department intentionally discriminating?  Well, again, that’s very difficult to prove.  But if you look at statistics, which is how you usually prove disparate impact claims, they’re saying that what the Texas department is doing has a discriminatory effect.

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