Trump Administration Proposes Changes to HUD Rule that Would Weaken Protections for Fair Housing Victims and Foreshadows Wide-ranging Consequences
San Rafael, August 19, 2019 – The Trump administration seeks to gut one of the Act’s critical tools: the Disparate Impact rule. The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional discrimination as well as the application of a policy or practice that appears neutral on its face but has a discriminatory effect.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development implemented the Disparate Impact rule that ensured that housing and related services such as lending and insurance are made available in ways that do not adversely impact particular communities protected by the Fair Housing Act. Now, however, the proposed rule change would set a higher bar, requiring civil rights advocates to meet five rather than three requirements in order to succeed with a disparate impact claim. The new rule provides a virtual blueprint for how housing providers can successfully defend against disparate impact claims and even claims that the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) would not override state laws that regulate the insurance industry.
The Fair Housing Act, enacted by Congress in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., carried a promise with its passage that every American would have equal access to housing and be free from discrimination.
“Many civil rights organizations like Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC) have effectively used the Act to help eliminate barriers to housing and promote equal opportunity, and it remains one of the most critical pieces of civil rights legislation for advancing racial and other forms of equality,” said Caroline Peattie, Executive Director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.
Despite strides made in the last half-century, however, discrimination in housing persists in the rental, lending, sales, and insurance markets.
“FHANC is currently involved in three different lawsuits against lenders that allege disparate impact where the lenders’ practices have adversely affected homeowners in communities of color,” said Peattie. “Making the federal fair housing law less accessible and setting the bar even higher to prove discrimination is sending exactly the wrong message to both consumers and the housing industry alike. It’s telling people in the housing industry – including managers, owners, realtors, lenders, and insurers – ‘go ahead, you can discriminate, as long as you’re careful about it and aren’t obvious about showing intent,’ while telling consumers – renters and buyers who are supposed to be protected under the Fair Housing Act – that it may not be worth filing a complaint because it will be too difficult to prove that what you experienced was illegal discrimination.”
Transparency Note: Melanie served for several years as VP on Board of FHANC (formerly – Fair Housing of Marin)
By MELANIE NATHAN