Washington, DC - On Monday, August 19, HUD will formally publish its disparate impact proposed rule, the latest in a series of Trump administration efforts to gut civil rights and fair housing protections. Under this administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has slowed or stopped most high-priority fair housing investigations and enforcement. After the city of Houston violated federal fair housing law by perpetuating racial segregation, HUD Secretary Ben Carson let the city off the hook by agreeing to a weak, largely unenforceable settlement. A court intervened last year to prevent Secretary Carson from reversing policies that will make it easier for low-income families to move out of high-poverty and segregated neighborhoods.
Now HUD seeks to dismantle an important enforcement tool for combatting discrimination, further restricting access to housing for people of color, seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, LGBTQ people, victims of domestic violence, and others.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing policies and practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if there was no obvious intent to discriminate. Eleven U.S. Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court have ruled that violations of the Fair Housing Act can be established through a disparate-impact standard of proof. In writing its 2013 Disparate Impact regulation, HUD codified decades of federal court jurisprudence to establish uniform “burden-shifting” standards for determining when a housing practice or policy with a discriminatory effect violates the Fair Housing Act. These standards were implicitly adopted by the Supreme Court and confirmed in subsequent court cases.
With its disparate-impact rule, Secretary Carson is attempting to create a new and much higher bar for proving discriminatory outcomes. The Trump administration designed these changes to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for communities of color to challenge discriminatory effects in housing.
As the housing crisis and its disproportionate harm to low-income people of color worsens, the racial wealth gap grows, and the African American homeownership declines below levels when discrimination was legal, the promise and obligations of the Fair Housing Act are more important than ever. Rather than attempting to weaken the disparate impact rule, HUD should be working to vigorously enforce it.
About NLIHC: Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.