The Trump Administration has engaged in a sustained effort to roll back basic civil rights protections.
Its latest proposal would make it harder to prove housing discrimination.
On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposal that would significantly weaken a legal theory called “disparate impact.” Disparate impact allows people to show that a housing policy had a negative impact on them because of their race, sex, national origin, disability, or other protected characteristic – even if the policy appears on its face to apply to everyone equally. Most landlords, realtors, banks, and others involved in housing know better than to admit that they intend to exclude certain groups; that is why "disparate impact" is so important.
Practically speaking, HUD proposal would effectively eliminate disparate impact as a usable legal tool. This means that landlords would be free to engage in activities that deprive people of color, families with children, and people with disabilities of housing opportunities -- so long as a discriminatory intent could not be shown. This HUD proposal would allow harmful discriminatory conduct to go unchecked.
Courts and HUD have recognized disparate impact theory in fair housing cases for decades. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded in 2015 that disparate impact is a valid approach to fighting housing discrimination. Disparate impact is a crucial tool that must be preserved.