Under the existing legal framework for fair housing protections, "disparate impact" claims have helped for decades to dismantle systemic barriers to fair housing. The disparate impact framework, grounded in decades of court precedent and codified in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is crucial for guaranteeing equal access to housing in the United States. It requires housing providers, financial institutions, municipalities, and other corporations to eliminate policies that appear neutral but disproportionately limit housing opportunities for marginalized and vulnerable communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, families with children, and survivors of domestic violence.
The Trump Administration’s new HUD rule, which goes into effect on Monday, October 26, 2020, substantially rolls back these protections by creating unnecessary barriers for victims of housing discrimination attempting to prove claims against discriminatory housing practices.
On October 22, the ACLU of Connecticut, together with the national American Civil Liberties Union, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, filed a lawsuit against HUD on behalf of the Connecticut-based Open Communities Alliance and SouthCoast Fair Housing of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the new HUD regulation, which would take away a critical tool for people to dismantle systemic barriers to fair housing and to fight to access and keep their homes.
If HUD succeeds in eliminating the current protections of the Fair Housing Act, a number of discriminatory practices could go unchecked, including: exclusionary zoning, landlords could evict survivors of domestic violence under policies punishing tenants for criminal activity in their homes or for calling the police; landlords could deny housing to anyone with any type of prior criminal record; public housing authorities could be prevented from giving housing vouchers to low-income people seeking to live in other neighborhoods, perpetuating racial segregation; and landlords could choose to rent out apartments by the room or impose overly restrictive occupancy limits, effectively shutting out families with children.