The American Prospect: How Justice Kennedy’s retirement could lead to an increase in housing discrimination

The American Prospect, July 6, 2018: How Justice Kennedy’s retirement could lead to an increase in housing discrimination


It’s important to also consider the ramifications of gutting the Fair Housing Act, and the consequences of the subtle discrimination that could ensue. So much of family wealth today is built through homeownership, which people of color in the U.S. could not access for centuries. Even more recent developments helped cement these disparities. While the GI Bill after World War II helped white families buy homes and start lives in the suburbs, black families were generally excluded, since banks wouldn’t grant mortgages in black neighborhoods—and other racist practices kept black families from living in different neighborhoods. And still, facsimiles of redlining continue today.

All this is certainly part of the reason why black and Latino Americans have so much less wealth than white families. In 2017, the median white family had 12 times the wealth of the median black family. And 60 percent of Latino families are liquid-asset poor, which means that they don’t have enough savings to live at the poverty level for three months if they encountered a sudden loss of income, compared to 28 percent of white families. This picture is stark enough, but it’s also getting worse: Median wealth for black and Latino families has been declining over the past three decades. From 1983 to 2013, the median wealth of a black family fell by 75 percent, and the median wealth of a Latino family fell 50 percent. Meanwhile, median white wealth rose 14 percent.

Yet, Secretary Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development seems to be on a mission to steer HUD’s focus away from combatting discrimination. HUD has reopened the policy on disparate impact, requesting comment for possible changes. In an interview with CityLab, Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a fair housing group, said, “This new advance notice of proposed rulemaking appears to ask the kinds of questions that you might ask if you were trying to water down a rule. Are there loopholes that should be provided? Is the rule burdensome?”

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