Will High Court Overturn Decades of Fair Housing Law?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court took up a major case involving the federal Fair Housing Act, which bans housing discrimination “because of” race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

The law clearly prohibits intentional discrimination—often referred to as “disparate treatment”—that is, intentionally denying housing or otherwise discriminating against anyone based on a protected characteristic.

But what’s currently at stake is whether the law is broad enough to cover “disparate impact” claims based on their discriminatory effect—even without proof of discriminatory intent. For decades, courts have said that the law covers both disparate treatment and disparate impact claims. And in 2013, HUD issued regulations to officially recognize discrimination claims based on disparate impact—which HUD refers to as “discriminatory effects.”

If the Court agrees, then nothing much will change. But an opposite ruling—that the FHA does not permit disparate impact claims—will have far-reaching effects for government agencies and housing-related industries across the country. The Court’s ruling is expected by June.

For more details about how the Court’s ruling on disparate impact claims could affect your community, see “2015 Fair Housing Trends—And What They Could Mean for Your Community,” available to subscribers here.