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Industry Anxiously Awaits Disparate Impact Ruling

gavel-twoWith word the highly anticipated disparate impact ruling expected to come forth by the end of June, industry leaders cannot help but grow increasingly curious regarding this Supreme Court case.

The Supreme Court heard the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, et al. (Texas) v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (IC) on January 21 and have yet to make a decision on this case. The Court’s decision will either confirm or deny the use of the disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act that allows courts to hold defendants liable for the discriminatory effects of their actions.

In an article released today titled “Fair Housing Enforcement Still Matters In Our ‘Post-Racial' Segregated Society--But It's Endangered” Forbes writer, Janet Novack highlighted how millions of Americans are affected by the ‘post racial’ society we live in, however, illegal housing market discrimination that perpetuates limited housing choices must eliminated.

“Real estate professionals are required to know what is mandated pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. They must be accountable when they fail to follow the law regardless of their legal awareness,” Novack said. “And they must be held responsible for any damage they cause whether or not they intended to do harm.”

The question at large in the Supreme Court case is whether people can sue by showing that a practice had a “disparate impact” on racial minorities, or whether they must meet a higher standard by proving intentional bias. The Supreme Court has not ruled on a disparate impact case before and on two previous occasions, this issue was brought before the Court and withdrawn or the case was settled before oral argument.

Out of the 44 petitions filed, 20 supported the Petitioners with the goal of eliminating the practice of disparate impact. These groups include mortgage banking organizations, home builders, apartment and housing associations, and real estate organizations, among others.

There were 24 petitions filed in support of Respondents, the opposing side. They claim that disparate impact is necessary to end discrimination in housing. Those who filed to support include civil rights groups, and legal and educational groups. They also include a brief filed by former HUD officials including Henry G. Cisneros, former HUD Secretary. Another was filed by present and former members of Congress including the late Sen. Edward Brooke.

With all of this in mind for the expected Supreme Court disparate impact ruling, it is clear that sides have been chosen and hopefully the expected June decision will be able to settle this issue.

“Continued inordinately high levels of residential segregation in the United States, at practically every income level, is a result of both intentional discriminatory actions, as well as the outcomes of discriminatory practices that appear neutral on their face,” Novack said. “Both must be eliminated. America is not yet a post-racial society. The only way it will ever achieve that desirable status is by ensuring that all its residents are free to achieve their full rights under law. “And an individual’s right to live in the neighborhood of their choosing is one of their most fundamental rights.”

About Author: Xhevrije West

Xhevrije West is a writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas. She has worked for a number of publications including The Syracuse New Times, Dallas Flow Magazine, and Bellwethr Magazine. She completed her Bachelors at Alcorn State University and went on to complete her Masters at Syracuse University.
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