Disparate Impact Rule Enforces Fair Housing Act

Advocates Can Submit Comments on HUD’s Proposed Disparate Impact Rule Changes

HUD has proposed radical changes to the 2013 Disparate Impact rule that would make it virtually impossible for people in the Fair Housing Act’s “protected classes” to bring charges of disparate impact against housing providers, governments, or businesses.

Without a disparate impact legal standard, housing providers will not be able to assess changes being made to policies and programs.

The Defend Civil Rights campaign has provided new materials to help advocates write and submit comments against HUD’s extremely harmful proposed revisions to the Disparate Impact Rule. Advocates should submit individualized comments that make clear to HUD about the effect that attempting to gravely weaken the Disparate Impact rule as a fair housing enforcement tool will have.

Comments are due by Friday, October 18, 2019. Individuals, as well as organizations, can submit simple comments that consist of a few sentences. Comments relating to discrimination against indivdiuals of color, women and low-income indivdiuals are especially important.

“Disparate impact” policies disproportionally harm one group over another group need to be considered against and compared to other policies that work toward the same goal but could have a different impact.

Disparate impact theory enables people to challenge certain laws and show that a housing policy or practice had a discriminatory impact on them because of their race, sex, national origin, disability, or other protected class characteristic even if the policy appears on its face to apply to everyone equally.

Landlord’s nuisance policies are just one example of policies that have a disparate impact. Nuisance policies can stipulate that if the police are called to a rental residence more than a certain number of times, that household could face eviction which may eventually lead to homelessness. In many situations, nuisance policies are more likely to affect households headed by women of color, than other households, who are often the victims of domestic violence.

The disparate impact rule goes beyond discrimination about who can and cannot rent or buy homes.

One threat of the proposed disparate impact rule is that it could exacerbate the racial disparity within the population in New Jersey experiencing homelessness.

On January 22, 2019 there were 8,864 persons experiencing homelessness on a single night in the State of New Jersey. In looking at the racial breakdown of those experiencing homelessness in relation to the racial breakdown in the general population and those living in poverty, disparate impacts along racial lines become evident.

According to the American Community Survey 2017 annual estimates prepared by the Census Bureau, about 8,960,161 people live in the state of New Jersey, and 10.5% (938,252 persons) of New Jersey residents are living below the poverty line. There is a strong correlation between poverty and homelessness, however, the racial disparities evident in the population indicate that poverty alone does not determine who will experience homelessness. Given the disparities present in the data, it is evident that systemic racism plays a significant role in factors contributing to homelessness.

Persons identifying as Black or African American are overrepresented in the population experiencing homelessness and living below the poverty level. While 13% of the general population, persons identifying as Black or African American are 24% of the population in poverty and 49.4% of the population experiencing homelessness. Persons identifying as Asian have the lowest rates of homelessness making up 9% of the state population, 6% of the population living below the poverty level, and .7% of the population experiencing homelessness.

The Defend Civil Rights campaign has court-case background material pertaining to five protected classes, as well as one general and four sector-specific sample comment letters. The court case materials cover legal cases impacting African Americans, Latinxs, families with children, people with disabilities, and women.

In addition to the general sample comment letter, there are sample comment letters related to gender-based violence, education, transportation, and fair housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has shared these materials here.

The Defend Civil Rights campaign is comprised of seven civil rights organizations, led by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

If you are not sure how to submit a comment letter via https://www.regulations.gov/, click here are step-by-step instructions from NLIHC.

An easy-to-read version of the proposed rule from NLIHC is available here.