WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) today applauded the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for issuing a regulation that will preserve "disparate impact" as an important tool in litigating housing discrimination cases against government entities, landlords and financial institutions.
Plaintiffs in housing discrimination cases, as with other important and longstanding civil rights laws, often rely on the doctrine of disparate impact (also called "discriminatory effect") when a discriminatory practice or policy is involved, and the question of "discriminatory intent" is not raised. Under the disparate impact standard, policies that have a discriminatory effect can be examined by the court to ensure that they serve a legitimate purpose and that no effective, less-discriminatory means of achieving that purpose is available.
"It's very significant that HUD is finally reinforcing what the courts have been saying for decades – that the Fair Housing Act prohibits policies and practices that have the effect of discriminating against people of color – or persons with disabilities," said Philip Tegeler, the president of PRRAC. "We hope this means that HUD will take a closer look at local residency preferences and other discriminatory admissions requirements for federally assisted housing."
The disparate impact standard safeguards the sound, effective policies of both private and public entities while preventing unnecessary discrimination and exclusion. By citing the disparate impact – a disproportional adverse impact on minorities – many courts have found these discriminatory actions to be violations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. With this new rule, HUD has adopted this same standard for its own administrative procedures.While noting that the HUD regulation doesn't break any new legal ground, Mr. Tegeler said the new rule is particularly important in affirming the principle that local governments cannot adopt so called "neutral" policies that keep African American and Latino families out of their communities.