As 2014 came to a close, Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 22 other current and former lawmakers to support a doctrine that for years has been used to end discriminatory practices that create barriers to housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.
Waters and the two civil rights groups brought together a bipartisan coalition of 23 former and current Members of Congress to sign onto a congressional amicus brief for the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, et al. v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. in support of the disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act, which allows courts to hold defendants liable for the discriminatory effects of its actions.
Waters issued the following statement on the brief:
“Access to housing is a cornerstone of achieving the American Dream and an important part of our national economy. Central to achieving that Dream has been the disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act, which allows courts to hold defendants liable for the discriminatory effects of its actions. The disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act has been effectively used for decades to weed out practices that create barriers to housing for people on the basis of factors like race, color, religion and gender.
Although the Supreme Court has never weighed in on this particular issue, every one of the eleven federal circuits that examined it has held that the disparate impact standard does in fact apply under the Fair Housing Act. Further, each of the relevant regulatory agencies has long held the same position, remaining unchanged through Republican and Democratic administrations alike.
Most memorably, we experienced the effects of unchecked discriminatory housing practices in the years leading up to the housing crash in the form of subprime lending targeted to minority communities – effects that continue to hinder working families across the country from closing the wealth gap and joining the ranks of the middle class.
The disparate impact standard is absolutely essential to providing for fair housing throughout our nation. I sincerely hope that the Supreme Court will make the right decision in this case by affirming that the Fair Housing Act unequivocally prohibits actions that have the effect of disproportionately denying housing to marginalized communities. Failure to do so would be contrary to congressional intent; it would overturn decades of major progress in fair housing; and would be particularly devastating for minority individuals and communities.”
A copy of the brief can be found here.