A recent action by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has now formalized a national standard for determining violations of the Fair Housing Act.
The new rule which takes into account “disparate impact” embraces a long-held civil rights view that housing discrimination and lending occur not only by intent; but also by effect.
Enacted in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Fair Housing Act bans discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex. The act was later amended to include family status and the physically-challenged.
Despite the Fair Housing Act, some real estate agents, landlords, lenders and even local governments continued practices that had an unjustified effect of discriminating against many well-qualified home seekers. The new regulation reaffirms what the law intended more than 40 years ago.
In response to HUD’s rule announcement, civil rights and fair housing advocates hailed the move.
Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said:
“We need look no further than the nation’s foreclosure crisis to see how many homeowners in communities of color as well as families with children, people with disabilities and many others have been devastated by the disparate impact of discriminatory housing and lending policies.
People of color, including many in the middle class, have lost a century of household wealth because of these practices. While some of these practices are unintentional, many others are built on the explicitly discriminatory practices of the past.”
According to Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), “Fair housing is fundamental to every family’s pursuit of the American Dream. By issuing this disparate impact rule, HUD reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to fairness for all.”
Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.firstname.lastname@example.org.