Washington, D.C. – Today, as the Supreme Court issued its decision in the matter of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, we are reminded that we all benefit when we have a full and effective Fair Housing Act.
Strong and effective laws that protect equal opportunity are the cornerstone of our democracy. We applaud the Supreme Court for its decision today in ensuring that disparate impact will remain a safeguard against covert and unintended discrimination.
The effectiveness of the Fair Housing Act lies in its ability to prohibit all forms of discrimination—policies and practices that either intentionally discriminate or that have the effect of discriminating. In fact, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful “[t]o refuse to sell or rent…, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, any dwelling to any person because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.”
After passage of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—more commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act—federal circuit courts unanimously upheld that violations of the Fair Housing Act can be established through a disparate impact standard of proof. By 1988 when the Fair Housing Act was amended to expand its scope, nine circuit courts of appeal had found the disparate impact standard necessary to enforce the law.
Under the disparate impact standard, courts assess discriminatory effect and whether an action perpetuates segregation, whether the discrimination is justified, and whether less discriminatory alternatives exist for the challenged practice.
Conduct that has the effect of creating disparate impact can be just as harmful to society as outright intentional discrimination. Too often, we have seen policies and programs—at the federal, state, and local levels—continue to perpetuate segregation, prevent equal access to housing, and rob communities of the vibrancy that diversity and inclusivity brings.
The full reach of the Fair Housing Act is key to expanding opportunity to everyone in this country regardless of the color of one’s skin, national origin, religion, gender, family status, and disability. Everyone deserves an opportunity to have adequate housing. If discriminatory practices are allowed it decreases the opportunities for everyone—but especially for those most vulnerable in society—to live the American dream.
Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.
Renee M. Willis
Vice President for Field and Communications
National Low Income Housing Coalition
1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20005