Texas Case Could Provide Supreme’s With Shot at Disparate Impact

September 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

A Texas case could provide the vehicle for the Supreme Court to consider disparate impact. From an Associated Press article about the case:

It’s not easy to prevent the Supreme Court from deciding an issue once the justices have agreed to hear a case.

But over the past two years, civil rights advocates have managed to do just that by coaxing settlements in a pair of high-profile housing discrimination cases weeks before the court was set to hear oral arguments…

In disparate impact cases, plaintiffs rely on statistics to show that seemingly neutral housing or lending practices can disproportionately harm racial minorities, even if there is no proof of intent to discriminate. The theory has been used for years to show bias in employment cases, but Texas officials are urging the justices to find that it doesn’t apply in housing discrimination cases…

In the Texas case, a fair housing group alleged that the state’s system for handing out low-income housing tax credits had a disparate impact on racial minorities. A federal appeals court agreed that the group could use statistics to show the state was approving more low-income housing in black neighborhoods than in white areas. Such policies perpetuate segregated neighborhoods, fair housing advocates say.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs says allowing disparate impact claims would open nearly every housing decision, from zoning rules to use of credit scores, to potential litigation. The agency also says it puts housing officials in the awkward position of seeking out race-neutral results without actually taking race into account…

There is no indication so far of any settlement talks in the Texas dispute, though that could change if the Supreme Court decides at its Sept. 29 conference to hear the case.

 

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Entry filed under: Affordable Housing, Regulatory Issues. Tags: , , , .

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