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.