Civil Rights, Housing, and Community Development Organizations Call on HUD to Maintain a Critical Fair Housing Tool and Not to Roll Back the Promise of the Fair Housing Act

Washington, DC – 76 national civil rights, faith-based, affordable housing and other organizations have voiced their strong opposition to HUD’s sudden and short-sighted decision to effectively suspend the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation.

Nearly 50 years ago, Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act, landmark legislation necessary to end discrimination in housing and eliminate the barriers created by segregation.  The AFFH regulation —designed with considerable public input and piloted extensively — was adopted in 2015 and was a critical and long overdue step in carrying out Congress’ intent. It provided jurisdictions with a roadmap and tools for compliance and included measures for accountability.  Without warning, HUD has decided effectively to suspend the regulation, leaving local jurisdictions confused, giving local residents less voice in important decisions about their communities, and reinstating an approach to fair housing that the Government Accountability Office found to be ineffective and poorly administered.

“HUD’s effective suspension of the rule does nothing to help local governments fulfill their fair housing responsibilities to create equitable, healthy communities and provide access to housing without discrimination,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO for PolicyLink.  “It is the wrong move, particularly at a time when housing needs are so severe and housing and community development resources are so scarce.  And by taking this step, HUD is abrogating its duty to carry out the mission Congress assigned it 50 years ago.”

“Americans strongly believe that a zip code should not determine a child’s future, and that everyone – regardless of their race or national origin, the language they speak, or whether they have children or have a disability – should have access to the opportunities they need to succeed,” said Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO for the National Fair Housing Alliance.  “But we are falling short of achieving that goal.  Actions taken over many years by HUD, other government agencies and the private sector have left us more segregated than we were 100 years ago.  That has led to concentrated poverty and weaker communities and undermines our prosperity.  We need HUD to enforce this important rule, not suspend it.”

“The administration’s abrupt decision to effectively suspend this critical regulation is misguided,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “The federal government, states and local communities have been required by law since 1968 to work to undo the segregated communities that federal housing policy created in the first place.  Suspending the tools that help communities meet that obligation, without any input from key stakeholders, is a step in the wrong direction.”

“The obligation of local governments to ‘affirmatively further fair housing’ is essential to fulfill the promises of the Fair Housing Act, particularly this year, the 50th Anniversary of this key civil rights law,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “HUD’s proposed suspension would roll back one of the law’s most critical tools to correct structural inequality and racial segregation and represents yet another attack by this Administration on communities of color across the country.”

“HUD’s decision to suspend a critical rule that has helped promote fair housing across the country is firm demonstration of Secretary Ben Carson’s hostility to fair enforcement and implementation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We will not stand by idly as HUD works to roll back the important gains that have been made to promote fair housing opportunities across the country.”

HUD’s announcement today is a serious loss for fair housing and puts the promise of making every neighborhood a community of opportunity further out of reach.  We call on HUD to reverse its decision, withdraw this notice, and move ahead with implementation and enforcement of this important fair housing rule.  And we call on Congress to provide policy and budgetary oversight of HUD to ensure it is delivering on the promise of fair and equitable housing.

For media inquiries, contact:

Jessica Brady, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, (202) 662-8600 x 8317, press@lawyerscommittee.org

Phoebe Plagens, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., 212.965.2235, pplagens@naacpldf.org

Jesse Meisenhelter, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, jmeisenhelter@ncrc.org, 202-464-2737

Debby Goldberg, National Fair Housing Alliance, Dgoldberg@nationafairhousing.org, 202-898-1661 or Jessica Aiwuyor, National Fair Housing Alliance, Jaiwuyor@nationalfairhousing.org, 202-898-1661

Renee Willis, National Housing Law Project, Media@nlihc.org, 202-662-1530

Lisa Marlow, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Lmarlow@nlihc.org, 202-662-1530

Milly Hawk Daniel, PolicyLink, Milly@policylink.org, 917-658-6468

 

This statement is issued on behalf of:

Action Center on Race and the Economy Institute

American Civil Liberties Union

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living

Autism Society of America

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

California Reinvestment Coalition

CarsonWatch

Center for Popular Democracy

Center for Responsible Lending

Center for Social Innovation

Center for the Study of Social Policy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Coalition on Human Needs

Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities Housing Task Force

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

Enterprise Community Parnters

Equal Justice Society

First Focus

FORGE, Inc.

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

Grounded Solutions Network

Housing Assistance Council

Impact Fund

Japanese American Citizens League

Lambda Legal

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Local Progress

LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors

Low Income Investment Fund

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Human Rights Workers

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD)

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Council of Churches

National Disabilty Rights Network

National Education Association

National Equality Action Team (NEAT)

National Fair Housing Alliance

National Health Care for the Homeless Council

National Housing Law Project

National Housing Trust

National Juvenile Justice Network

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Low Income Housing Coalition

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Urban League

Paralyzed Veterans of America

PFLAG National

PolicyLink

Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Pride at Work

Prosperity Now

Public Advocates Inc.

Public Citizen

Smart Growth America

Technical Assistance Collaborative

The Arc of the United States

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Transgender Law Center

Treatment Communities of America

UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza)

United Way Worldwide

Supreme Court Delivers a Major Victory against Housing Discrimination

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued several landmark decisions for all Americans, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

In a 6-3 opinion in King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court held that federal tax subsidies are being provided lawfully in those states that have decided not to run the marketplace exchanges for insurance coverage. This is a huge win for the Affordable Care Act and people with disabilities throughout the country.

Less prominent, but a tremendous victory for civil rights, is the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. – a ruling that will support the continued progress of people with disabilities and other minorities toward full inclusion in all aspects of American life.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that housing discrimination is illegal, even if it is not intentional. This decision upholds a longstanding principle under the Fair Housing Act, known as “disparate impact.” By finally settling the question of whether the language of the Fair Housing Act allows for claims based on disparate impact, as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does, the decision supports our nation’s progress toward integrated, inclusive communities that foster opportunities for all Americans.

In the case, a fair housing advocacy organization sued the state of Texas, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act for awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of predominantly white neighborhoods, thereby denying minorities access to affordable housing in communities where they might access better schools and greater economic opportunity. The state was not accused of intentionally excluding African-Americans from predominantly white neighborhoods, but of structuring its tax credit assignments in such a way that they had a discriminatory effect.

At stake in this case was not only the claims brought against the state of Texas, but also whether the key legal protections provided under disparate impact would continue to be available under the Fair Housing Act.

As noted in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act of 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “to eradicate discriminatory practices within a sector of the Nation’s economy.” As amended, today the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability, race, national origin, religion, gender, and familial status.

Disparate impact is a legal doctrine that holds that the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws prohibit policies and practices that discriminate, whether or not the policies were motivated by the intent to harm a particular group.

For over 40 years, the disparate impact doctrine has been a key tool protecting the rights of people with disabilities, people of color, and other groups covered by the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws to have equal opportunity to live and work in the communities that that they choose. It has formed the basis for federal regulations and has been used extensively by the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and civil rights organizations to fight housing and employment discrimination across the United States.

The ability to allege disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act has been upheld by 11 federal appeals courts, but the Supreme Court has never before issued an opinion in a fair housing disparate impact case.

Fortunately, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the disparate impact standard, finding that recognition of disparate impact claims is consistent with the Fair Housing Act’s central purpose.

This week’s decision marks an important milestone in our nation’s path toward integration and inclusion. It’s a major victory that shores up the progress that people with disabilities and civil rights organizations have made over the last four decades, and strengthens our ongoing work to end discrimination in all its forms.

To learn more:

April is Fair Housing Month!

Live Free

This April we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act – a powerful law that fights housing discrimination and opens doors for people with disabilities across the U.S.

This year’s theme is “Live Free: Creating Equal Opportunity in Every Community.” Fair Housing Month events are being held all over the nation.

What is The Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), familial status, and disability. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that person, a person associated with the buyer or renter, or a person who plans to live in the residence.  For example:

  • The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space and common spaces (landlords are not required to pay for the changes).
  • The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities the opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. A landlord with a “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception for a tenant who uses a service animal.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from imposing different application or qualification criteria on people with disabilities, or inquiring about the nature or severity of a disability (except in limited circumstances). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently charged Bank of America with discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • The Fair Housing Act requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for people with disabilities.

It’s been over 4 decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law.  There’s much to celebrate, but also much work to do.  People with disabilities increasingly want to live in the community in a home that they rent or own. Unfortunately, far too many find that discrimination limits their options: disability-based discrimination is the top reason for Fair Housing Act complaints submitted to HUD.

What can you do?

If you suspect discrimination, you can file a complaint with HUD online or by calling 800-669-9777, or TTY 800-927-9275. You may also file a lawsuit in court.  Contact a local fair housing agency for guidance and help filing a complaint.