Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a new fair housing regulation aimed at promoting diverse, inclusive communities and overcoming the negative effects of segregation. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. HUD’s new regulation is designed to help states and local jurisdictions comply with their existing obligations to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a key provision of the Fair Housing Act. As noted by HUD, the new rule “creates a streamlined Assessment of Fair Housing planning process, which will help communities analyze challenges to fair housing choice and establish their own goals and priorities to address the fair housing barriers in their community.”
Last week, in a tremendous victory for civil rights, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., a landmark ruling that will support the continued progress of people with disabilities and other minorities toward full inclusion in all aspects of American life. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that housing discrimination is illegal, even if it is not intentional. This decision upholds a longstanding principle under the Fair Housing Act, known as “disparate impact,” that holds that the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws, prohibit policies and practices that discriminate, whether or not the policies were motivated by the intent to harm a particular group.
This week’s Supreme Court decision marks an important milestone in our nation’s path toward integration and inclusion. It is a major victory that shores up the progress that people with disabilities and civil rights organizations have made over the last four decades, and strengthens our ongoing work to promote integration and end discrimination in all its forms. Learn more on The Arc’s blog.
April is Fair Housing Month, a time to celebrate the Fair Housing Act and raise awareness about this important civil rights law. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has kicked off Fair Housing Month with the launch of a new national media campaign. This year’s campaign, implemented by HUD in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance, highlights the release of a number of new public service announcements and uses the Twitter hashtag #FairHousingMonth. National, state, and local disability advocates are encouraged to participate in this opportunity to enhance awareness of the Fair Housing Act and its important protections for people with disabilities and other covered groups.
Last Thursday, the Senate confirmed by a vote of 54 to 38 Gustavo Velasquez Aguilar as the next Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). FHEO administers federal laws and establishes national policies that make sure all Americans, including people with disabilities, have equal access to the housing of their choice. Particular activities include implementing and enforcing the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a long-anticipated proposed regulation under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, entitled “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH). The proposed rule does not create any new obligations, but instead seeks to provide clearer guidance and tools to help entities understand and carry out their AFFH obligations. AFFH refers to the Fair Housing Act’s obligation for state and local governments to improve and achieve more meaningful outcomes from fair housing policies, so that every American has the right to fair housing, regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. As stated in HUD’s press release, “Under the proposed new rule, HUD will provide program participants with: A more clearly articulated definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing; An assessment template that replaces the current, loosely defined Analysis of Impediments; Nationally uniform data and a geospatial tool; and Clear guidance and technical assistance.” In addition to the proposed rule, HUD has made available made available background materials and a prototype geospatial tool.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have jointly released new guidance on design and construction requirements under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex and familial status; it requires that multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 1991 contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. According to HUD, “The new guidance is designed to assist design professionals, developers and builders in understanding and meeting their obligations and to assist persons with disabilities in understanding their rights regarding the ‘design and construction’ requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.”
HUD has also issued a notice on assistance animals and reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. The notice discusses the intersection of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to assistance animals, describing housing owner’s obligations under the Fair Housing Act and when multiple nondiscrimination laws apply.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced this year’s Fair Housing Month theme as, “Our Work Today Defines Our Tomorrow.” HUD and the National Fair Housing Alliance have released videos and fliers as part of a national media campaign. State and local disability advocates are encouraged to participate in this opportunity to enhance awareness of the Fair Housing Act and its important protections for people with disabilities and other covered groups.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued final regulations endorsing the use of a “disparate impact” standard under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act provides vital protections against housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. The new rule formalizes HUD’s longstanding interpretation that housing policies and practices can be determined to be discriminatory not only by their intent, but also by their effect. This interpretation is essential to ensuring that groups protected under the Fair Housing Act – including people with disabilities – have opportunities to live in all communities.
Under a “disparate impact” standard, landlords and lenders can be held accountable for unjustifiable pursuit of policies and practices that discriminate against protected groups. For example: a landlord with a “no pets” policy who refuses to make exceptions is making housing unavailable for people who use service animals; a bank that only approves mortgages for employed applicants is making housing unavailable to people with disabilities who rely on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income; a housing provider who refuses to process rental applications without drivers’ licenses is making housing unavailable to people with visual disabilities and others with disabilities that prevent them from acquiring drivers’ licenses.
Last year, The Arc joined with other disability and civil rights groups to urge HUD to issue a final “disparate impact” rule. The Arc applauds HUD’s issuance of this important final rule.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jacinto, California for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the city discriminated against individuals with disabilities by restricting group homes from operating within the city. The suit also alleges that the city targeted homes for individuals with disabilities in a 2008 sweep by city and county officials and armed police officers and sheriff’s deputies who interrogated residents by asking intrusive questions related to their disabilities. DOJ has asked the court to prevent the city from enforcing its discriminatory zoning laws, prohibit the city from refusing to make reasonable accommodations, to award monetary damages to the victims, and to assess a civil penalty. DOJ issued a press release about the lawsuit.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bank of America N.A. have announced a settlement to resolve allegations that Bank of America violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act for discriminating against home loan applicants who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The bank had asked applicants to provide details of their medical conditions and required a letter from their doctor documenting their SSDI income. Under the settlement, Bank of America has agreed to revise its policies on documenting disability income, hold employee trainings, and pay monies to the loan applicants who were affected by the alleged misconduct. The bank will hire a third party administrator to search approximately 25,000 loan applications involving SSDI income to identify any other victims.