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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Applauds Supreme Court Fair Housing Decision

NCIL applauds the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act regarding housing discrimination. The concept of disparate impact (that policies can be discriminatory even if they don’t seem to be on paper) was upheld for fair housing cases. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. decision recognized that claims of housing discrimination do not need a “smoking gun” show of intent.

The Supreme Court upheld the precedent that statistics and other evidence can be used to support a claim of a pattern of housing discrimination. Although this tool was not explicitly written into the Fair Housing Act as it was with, for example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, multiple court decisions have long recognized that this is a valid approach to show discrimination and permissible for Fair Housing cases.

This case was very worrisome for many advocates because the Supreme Court previously attempted to hear two similar cases. This indicated that some on the court were eager to take on this issue despite it apparently being long-established in many courts. The two earlier cases were settled to avoid the risk of an unfavorable Supreme Court decision. This 5-4 decision indicates that it was a very close decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised many by being the swing vote.

Although this case looked at racial discrimination, upholding the use means it could be used to show disability-related discrimination. It also means that efforts to desegregate racially (for example, more family housing in white suburbs) will benefit people with disabilities who will then have more options on where to live. The SCOTUS Blog has a good summary for people interested in the implications of the decision.

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