Search Results for ‘housing "disparate impact"’

Housing disparate impact returns to the Supreme Court

Daniel Fisher recounts oral argument in the case of Texas Dept. of Housing vs. The Inclusive Communities Project. Roger Clegg (more) and Terry Eastland comment on a “to exclude one is implicitly to include all others” argument made by some on the liberal side.

Interviewed at HousingWire, Mike Skojec of Ballard Spahr predicts major consequences from the case (including, paradoxically or otherwise, higher costs for the building of “affordable” housing should the liberal side win) and has this to say about how disparate-impact advocates have overplayed their hand:

In some disparate impact cases, the theory has worked effectively to lessen racial discrimination and the perpetuation of illegal segregation. However, the substantial increase in the use of the theory by advocacy groups and HUD for many kinds of claims for which it should not be used, such as how risk is evaluated in selling property insurance or how management companies screen the risk of criminal conduct and other bad acts by possible tenants, has caused the theory to be attacked and probably struck down.

Why “probably” struck down? Well, there are many signals of the Court’s intention:

The Court has wanted to examine this issue, as evidenced by accepting cert three times. It has repeatedly said that it only wanted to look at whether disparate impact applies under the Fair Housing Act and not what standard would apply if it does exist, even though there are many circuit court decisions using disparate impact, and they have used conflicting standards. Typically, the Court would want to decide an issue that is in conflict between the circuits, especially here, where HUD has already tried to resolve the conflicts with a rule. The Court’s refusal to consider a standard suggests that the majority of the justices already know disparate impact will no longer apply under the Fair Housing Act.

Judge rules against housing disparate impact theory

The Obama Administration has repeatedly dodged cases in fear of judicial review of its controversial application of the disparate impact theory to mortgage lending and other aspects of the housing market, but its position has now met with a stiff rebuke from district court judge Richard Leon [Insurance Journal]:

“This is yet another example of an administrative agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction,” Leon wrote.

He called the rule “nothing less than an artful misinterpretation of Congress’s intent that is, frankly, too clever by half.”

“Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination, Feds Say”

HUD to private landlords: from now on, prepare to defend a discrimination suit if you decline to rent to felons. After all, any such rule might have disparate impact on members of protected groups. [NPR] Julia Vitullo-Martin writes: “Amazing, given that government — in the form of public housing — has refused to rent to felons since Clinton administration reforms.”

“Stop calling it fair housing…”

…There’s nothing fair about it. I’ve got a post at Cato about yesterday’s important Supreme Court victory for the Left in which Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberals to hold that current federal law allows housing suits based on “disparate impact” theories. I explain why pundits are being silly when they claim that the Court “saved” the Fair Housing Act or that a contrary ruling would have “gutted” it, and why Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas were right in their dissents to spotlight the shaky basis of the theory in the statutory text, going back to the original disparate-impact case, Griggs v. Duke Power.

True, Kennedy did throw a sop or two about how courts applying disparate impact need to avoid pressuring actors toward the potentially unconstitutional result of quotas. Although some consider these bits of wording significant, I suspect that will mean about as much as similar sops that the Court has thrown over the years about avoiding quotas in employment and education, i.e., not much. Others, such as Cory Andrews of WLF, point to Kennedy language suggesting (on what statutory basis is not entirely clear) that disparate impact scrutiny might be limited to “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary” practices, a narrowness of approach not seen in other disparate-impact contexts. How administrable such a standard might prove, or how much litigation will be needed before it is clarified, is anyone’s guess.

Some further background on Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project: SCOTUSBlog, Cato’s brief in the case and earlier coverage by Ilya Shapiro and company here and here, and my podcast.

Will SCOTUS finally rule on “disparate-impact” housing theory?

Under the “disparate impact” theory of housing discrimination, private business decisions or local government policies not motivated by race are deemed unlawful anyway because they have a differential statistical impact on housing transactions by members of a given racial group. A mortgage lender’s policy of lending only to borrowers with high down payments or sterling credit ratings, for example, might be subject to attack on the grounds that it tended to screen out minority borrowers, even if such was not its intention, and was not justified by business necessity. The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on this theory; two years ago, in a case called Magner v. Gallagher, it was widely speculated that the Court would disapprove disparate-impact claims, a prospect the Obama administration (which is deeply invested in the theory) managed to dodge only by arranging to moot the case through settlement.

In the new Supreme Court case of Township of Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc., plaintiffs claim that it is illegal for a New Jersey township to slate a tract of development land for detached single-family housing because poorer persons are less likely to be able to afford such housing and minority persons are more likely to be poorer. The Obama administration is backing the claim. [earlier] The Cato Institute, along with the Pacific Legal Foundation and several other groups, has filed an amicus brief defending the township. Writes Ilya Shapiro at Cato at Liberty:

The Gardens’ residents can’t afford the new housing not because of their race but because of their poverty. While it’s a harsh truth that a disproportionate number of minorities live in poverty, claiming that making expensive products is racist and that these “racists” have an obligation to compensate the victims of poverty is absurd. The FHA was intended, in the words of Senator Walter Mondale, “to permit people who have the ability to do so to buy any house offered to the public if they can afford to buy it. It would not overcome the economic problem of those who could not afford to purchase the house of their choice.”

For following the law as it was written and attempting to improve a blighted neighborhood without resorting to eminent domain abuse, Mount Holly was rewarded with a decade’s worth of vexatious litigation — which the Supreme Court should now end once and for all.

More: Hans Bader, Examiner.

Supreme Court roundup

More about EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

Cato has now posted the video of its annual Constitution Day conference including the civil rights panel, on which I spoke. My talk on EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the hijab religious-accommodation case, begins at 40:30, after presentations by William Eskridge of Yale Law School on the Obergefell (same-sex marriage) case, and Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity on disparate impact in fair housing. Roger Pilon of Cato introduces us and moderates.

You can read my article on the Abercrombie case here, part of the newly published 2014-2015 Cato Supreme Court Review. I’m also quoted in the ABA Journal’s coverage of the case. Earlier here.

Last year’s (and next’s) Supreme Court term

Caleb Brown interviews me and Trevor Burrus about some of the term’s lower-profile Supreme Court cases, including Abercrombie & Fitch (religious accommodation), disparate impact housing discrimination, Yates (whether the Sarbanes-Oxley financial accounting law forbids destroying fish), Horne (raisin takings), three-strikes sentencing and (Trevor) the Texas confederate flag license plate case. We also preview next term’s important Friedrich v. California Teachers Association case on public sector union dues collection (more on which, Michael Rosman).

Related: ten cases the Court should have taken last term but didn’t [Mark Chenoweth, WLF]

July 15 roundup