The big talk today has certainly centered on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision affirming the Obama Administration’s position that government subsidies should be available to all (which, ironically, was a major win for mostly those living in red states). Another important ruling, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, got the attention of urban planners and fair housing policy advocates both for what it did and did not do. The court, in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, affirmed the understanding of housing discrimination under the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Kriston Kapps of CityLab has a good take on what was at stake in this case.
The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion Thursday morning that affirms the understanding of housing discrimination that has guided the nation for nearly 50 years.
At the heart of the decision is the notion of “disparate impact”: whether the Fair Housing Act can be read to prohibit policies that adversely affect minority groups even when that’s not the stated goal of the policy. Explicit racial discrimination is illegal under the Fair Housing Act. According to the court’s ruling today, disparate impact is recognizable as a category of racial discrimination under the law.
The opinion—in a case that the Cato Institute described as “very likely [ . . . ] the third-most-noted case from this term” before Thursday morning’s news—was something of a surprise. Court watchers widely predicted that Justice Kennedy would deliver the verdict, for several docket and calendar reasons. Since he has typically sided with conservatives on discrimination issues in the past (on affirmative action in particular), many speculated that he would do so again with regard to disparate impact.
So for now, the Fair Housing Act stands. Given increasing concern by many academics that segregation is increasing not only in cities but in suburbs too, this is without question an important ruling.