WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) today applauded the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for issuing a regulation that will preserve "disparate impact" as an important tool in litigating housing discrimination cases against government entities, landlords and financial institutions.
Plaintiffs in housing discrimination cases, as with other important and longstanding civil rights laws, often rely on the doctrine of disparate impact (also called "discriminatory effect") when a discriminatory practice or policy is involved, and the question of "discriminatory intent" is not raised. Under the disparate impact standard, policies that have a discriminatory effect can be examined by the court to ensure that they serve a legitimate purpose and that no effective, less-discriminatory means of achieving that purpose is available.
"It's very significant that HUD is finally reinforcing what the courts have been saying for decades – that the Fair Housing Act prohibits policies and practices that have the effect of discriminating against people of color – or persons with disabilities," said Philip Tegeler, the president of PRRAC. "We hope this means that HUD will take a closer look at local residency preferences and other discriminatory admissions requirements for federally assisted housing."
The disparate impact standard safeguards the sound, effective policies of both private and public entities while preventing unnecessary discrimination and exclusion. By citing the disparate impact – a disproportional adverse impact on minorities – many courts have found these discriminatory actions to be violations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. With this new rule, HUD has adopted this same standard for its own administrative procedures.
While noting that the HUD regulation doesn't break any new legal ground, Mr. Tegeler said the new rule is particularly important in affirming the principle that local governments cannot adopt so called "neutral" policies that keep African American and Latino families out of their communities.
PRRAC specializes in research and advocacy to address the causes and consequences of housing segregation. For example, last week, PRRAC issued a "Report Card" on HUD's efforts to promote housing integration in the first term of the Obama Administration. (http://www.prrac.org/pdf/HUDFirstTermReportCard.pdf) And in November, PRRAC published an important research paper, "Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools?" which looks at the ways that HUD programs tend to place families in lower performing schools.
Mr Tegeler noted that a wide variety of cases would be affected if disparate impact was no longer ruled to apply in fair housing litigation, including:
- Cases attacking zoning and land-use policies and decisions which restrict private construction of multifamily housing to a largely minority area or block or limit development of affordable housing in communities of opportunity, resulting in both discriminatory denial of housing to minorities and the perpetuation and/or exacerbation of residential segregation.
- Residency requirements and other admissions procedures imposed by public housing agencies or housing management firms in predominantly white communities which discriminate against minority persons not living in such communities.
- Cases challenging governmental redevelopment or demolition plans or policies which disproportionately displace minorities by eliminating lower income housing or excluding African American and Latino families from their communities.
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a civil rights policy organization convened by major civil rights, civil liberties, and anti-poverty groups in 1989-90. PRRAC's primary mission is to help connect advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and to promote a research-based advocacy strategy on structural inequality issues. PRRAC sponsors social science research, provides technical assistance, and convenes advocates and researchers around particular race and poverty issues. Visit PRRAC online at www.prrac.org. To join PRRAC's biweekly email list go to http://visitor.constantcontact.com/manage/optin/ea?v=001EZ1xV5UTY8vgeWJATo2EKGfv_t1AGWN24Cbm7mN40TiEoJwIcH-USz9QzZcKDa0zywZpmf7ylcI%3D
Contact: Michael Frisby
SOURCE Poverty & Race Research Action Council