Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Upholds Key Tool to Combat Housing Discrimination

The Texas NAACP applauds the decision of the United States Supreme Court to permit disparate impact theories to prove violations of the Fair Housing Law. The decision re-affirmed a federal law passed in 1968 to combat housing discrimination by holding that the law allows not only claims for intentional discrimination but also, claims that cover practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if they were not motivated by an intent to discriminate.

Owners, lenders and others covered by the law know how difficult it is for individual property owners to successfully litigate cases because of the individual expense and there are simply not enough lawyers available to handle all of the cases on an individual or group basis. This ruling makes such litigation much more likely to be successful in the future.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department will make use of this ruling in the future.

"Bolstered by this important ruling, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act with every tool at its disposal - including challenges based on unfair and unacceptable discriminatory effects," she said in a statement.

"Housing is the most critical foundation for individuals and families seeking reassurances that the American Dream is within reach for everyone no matter what they happen to look like or wherever they live," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund president and director-counsel, in a statement. "Housing also represents opportunity and mobility and the Court's ruling keeps the original spirit of fair housing guarantees intact. Today's ruling signals a continuing commitment to equality will benefit future generations to come."

In addition, it permits the attacking of racially neutral criteria that are used by those covered by the law such as owners and lenders. Frequently there is evidence that neutral criteria has a disparate impact on minorities seeking homes or residences. This means that such facially neutral criteria must be justified as necessary before they can properly be used. This is a great victory.

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