Posts Tagged ‘housing discrimination’

Lawsuit challenges Methodist resort’s “church attenders only” bylaws

Bay View, Michigan, is one of many Methodist-founded resorts from the Chautauqua tradition, among the better-known of which are the ones at Ocean Grove, N.J. and Chautauqua, N.Y. Now it is the target of an ACLU-backed lawsuit claiming that its bylaws, which permit only “practicing Christians” to own property, are unlawful. One of the claims in the lawsuit is that Michigan cannot properly under the First Amendment delegate certain public services, like those of a police force, to the association within its boundaries. But (I’m quoted as saying) as recently as 2002 a court ruled that it was not improper for a Christian college in Michigan to have police powers delegated to it for campus security, even though the college, like Bay View, was under bylaws requiring that it be controlled by religious believers. A second claim in the lawsuit, invoking the federal Fair Housing Act, may have a clearer path forward, because courts have been inclined to read narrowly rights of autonomy of religious institutions, especially entities like Bay View that are not as closely tied to church functions as those of, say, a monastic retreat might be. Tracy Schorn, DC_Bar]

My parting shot: “Certainly, Bay View is out of step with modern sentiment, and I can’t predict to what extent the courts will tolerate that. I will say this, however: If the courts turn Bay View into just another secular homeowner’s association, the result will be not more but less diversity overall in Michigan and in resort options.” [

Housing roundup

  • “The Rent is Too High and the Commute is Too Long: We Need Market Urbanism” [Andrew Criscione, Market Urbanism] Is excessive regulation making it costly to build starter homes? Ask the New York Times [Ira Stoll]
  • Good: Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Paul Gosar have introduced a bill to eliminate outright the Obama administration’s meddlesome AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) rule [Vanessa Brown Calder, earlier]
  • “Dollar home” programs show mostly sparse results in urban revitalization, especially when regulatory strings come attached [Jared Alves, Greater Greater Washington]
  • Too radical to pass? Bill 827 in California would impose upzoning on transit corridors [Ilya Somin] California wildfires will worsen Bay Area housing shortage, but where’d that shortage come from? [Enrico Moretti, NYT] “Why Does Land-Use Regulation (Still) Matter in Oregon?” [Calder, Cato]
  • New from NBER: “Rent Control Raises Housing Costs” [Charles Hughes, Economics21] Study “provides strong evidence of rent control’s damaging effects” [Calder]
  • “Blockchain technology can empower public and private efforts to register property rights on a single computer platform,” with particular benefits for poorer societies in which property rights remain ill-defined [Phil Gramm and Hernando de Soto, WSJ/AEI, Arnold Kling] “The U.S. property title system is a disgrace. It could be fixed with blockchain. But it also could be fixed without blockchain.” [Kling]

Challenge to Seattle law banning choice of tenants

“In Yim v. City of Seattle, PLF is challenging an anti-discrimination law that prohibits landlords from choosing their own tenants. Today, we filed our opening brief to ask the Court to invalidate this oppressive and brazen violation of fundamental rights. Under Seattle’s ‘first-in-time’ rule, a landlord must offer a rental unit to the first person who submits an adequate application.” [Ethan Blevins, Pacific Legal Foundation, earlier on Seattle law purporting to require landlords to rent to first qualified tenant who applies] The law has been rationalized in part as a way to restrict the operation of “unconscious” bias. “The Seattle law illustrates an important downside of trying to use government regulation to offset the subconscious cognitive biases of the private sector: there is little, if any reason to believe that voters and politicians are less biased than the people whose behavior they are trying to regulate. Much of the time, they are likely to be more so.” [Ilya Somin]

January 10 roundup

December 6 roundup

  • Torts class hypotheticals come to life: tipsy axe-throwing, discussed in this space last June, is coming to D.C. [Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian] One guess why Japanese “slippery stairs” game show might not translate easily to Land O’ Lawyers [Dan McLaughlin on Twitter]
  • “California lawyer pleads guilty in $50M visa scam” [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
  • Claim: longstanding practice in Louisiana and Oregon of not requiring jury unanimity for felony convictions reflects states’ racial past [Angela A. Allen-Bell, Washington Post]
  • “Judge Halts Copyright Troll’s Lawsuit Against A Now-Deceased Elderly Man With Dementia And An IP Address” [Timothy Geigner]
  • David Henderson reviews Richard Rothstein book on history of federal encouragement of housing segregation, The Color of Law [Cato Regulation magazine]
  • Class action: sellers of cold-pressed juice should have disclosed that it was high-pressure-processed [Elaine Watson, Food Navigator USA]

July 5 roundup

  • Court order (arising from federal demand for information on three accounts) forbids Facebook “from communicating the existence of the warrants to its users” [Paul Alan Levy]
  • “The great intellectual property trade-off”: brief guide to IP by economist Tim Harford [BBC]
  • Eye-opening if dogmatic history of how federal government and other institutions connived at residential segregation [David Oshinsky in N.Y. Times reviewing Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law]
  • About those “do not remove under penalty of law” mattress tags [Now I Know]
  • What comes after a Congressional Review Act (CRA) repeal of a regulation? [Sam Batkins and Adam White, Cato Regulation magazine]
  • Estate tax, DC Metro, bogus search-engine takedown suits, and kudos for a Democrat in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]

Supreme Court roundup

May 3 roundup

Third Circuit: neighbors who criticized condo residents over emotional support dogs must face civil rights suit

In blog posts and comments, two residents of a Virgin Islands condominium complex criticized two other residents who were (in line with rights prescribed to them under federal law) keeping emotional-support dogs despite a no-dog rule in the complex. Among other statements, one or the other of the two said dog owners would be “happier in another community,” speculated that “diploma mill” paperwork could certify any canine whose owner cared to claim stress, suggested the complex should “lawyer up” and be prepared to go to court to defend its rule against “known violators,” and proposed the dog owners be “ostracized” by other residents.

The dog-owning residents sued the neighbors, along with the condo association and other defendants. They cited federal legal interpretations, which have since been buttressed by a regulation issued in the Obama administration, that hold it “hostile environment harassment” under the Fair Housing Act to make statements that “interfere” with another’s exercise of rights under the law.

Now the Third Circuit, as part of a decision resolving numerous issues about the case, reversed grants of summary judgment in favor of the two blog writers and ruled that they could properly be sued for damages for creating a hostile environment under the Fair Housing Act. It described as “harassment” various instances of their critical speech and noted that a single instance of harassing speech could give rise to liability under the law. It is not clear whether the parties raised, and the court did not make any gesture toward considering, whether some or all of the statements involved might be protected by the First Amendment, which is mentioned nowhere in the opinion. [Revock v. Cowpet Bay West Condominium Association et al., see relevant section VI, pp. 31-41 of opinion via John Ross, Short Circuit]

As Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has pointed out, the Ninth Circuit in 2000 slapped down federal officials for having investigated Berkeley, Calif. residents who had fought a housing project that they believed would bring mentally ill residents or recovering substance abusers (both protected as disabled under the Fair Housing Act) to their neighborhood. “It found this principle was so plain and obvious that it denied individual civil rights officials qualified immunity for” having investigated the citizens. That case [White v. Lee] would appear to stand for the proposition that the First Amendment provides robust protection for much speech that criticizes, opposes, and disparages others’ exercise of rights under the Fair Housing Act, and that the speech does not lose protection just because others regard it as retaliatory or discouraging to the exercise of rights.

More: Hans Bader, Scott Greenfield, and Eric Goldman, who got to the case before either of us.

January 25 roundup