The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced a proposed rule change that would severely weaken the “disparate impact” protection under the Fair Housing Act, which requires banks, landlords and other housing providers to choose policies that apply fairly to all persons.
Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), made the following statement:
“HUD’s proposal makes it far more difficult for those injured by stealth discriminatory policies to prove discrimination. The bar was already set high and HUD‘s proposal would put it in the stratosphere – it really strains credulity. More housing and credit decisions are also moving into black boxes and outside of any real oversight or the ability of consumers to effectively challenge the underlying information. Proprietary algorithms are proliferating, in loan underwriting for example, and HUD’s proposal will make it even harder to challenge outcomes from those systems even when the impact on consumers and borrowers is clearly discriminatory.
“In addition, HUD’s proposal is irresponsible. It is inconsistent with HUD’s legal obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, by creating an overly broad exemption to discriminatory practices that affect liability for the home insurance market.
“NCRC has long called upon HUD to establish a standard that would affirm the precedent on disparate impact, both in the legal system and among the regulatory agencies. The disparate impact protection under the Fair Housing Act empowers the government and independent watchdogs to recognize and prevent harmful, inequitable and unjustified practices. It ensures that everyone is treated fairly when it comes to finding the right home for their families. Our homes are vital to our lives. They provide access to good jobs, good schools, public transportation and safe streets.
“While the Fair Housing Act has eliminated barriers to housing for more than 50 years, more than 4 million instances of housing discrimination are reported to HUD each year. If HUD removes the disparate impact protection, we could see even more cases of housing discrimination, including evictions for families facing domestic violence. Seniors, families with multiple children and people with disabilities who do not have full-time jobs could be excluded from rentals. Insurance companies could refuse to provide insurance for homes under a certain value. Lenders could set high fees to keep low-income people out of the housing market. HUD should be working aggressively to root out discrimination in housing and to protect consumers who are harmed by it. Instead, the Trump administration wants to give a free pass to bad actors in housing and banking, and turn its back on minorities who are harmed by them.
“The Trump administration’s efforts to weaken the Fair Housing Act will undermine equal opportunity in housing. If this proposed rule change goes through, it will severely weaken an important enforcement tool that is critical to combating modern forms of discrimination.
“The Fair Housing Act has enjoyed bipartisan support for over 45 years. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have relied on it to address widespread discrimination in housing. We implore HUD to drop this reckless and dangerous rule change before it causes unnecessary harm to hardworking American families.”