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  • 06/26/2015

    Supreme Court of the United States Permits Disparate-Impact Claims under the Fair Housing Act

    Client Alert

    Thomas F. Carroll, III, Esq., and Cameron W. MacLeod, Esq. – Hill Wallack LLP

    In a 5-4 decision released on June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs et al. v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. et al., that “disparate-impact claims” are cognizable under the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3601 et seq. With this decision, the Supreme Court authorized cases where plaintiffs can show that the practices of an entity have a “disproportionately adverse effect on minorities” and those practices cannot be justified by a legitimate rationale. These claims include challenges to zoning laws which unfairly exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods and areas. Thus, the Court’s opinion confirms that such plaintiffs need not come forward with direct evidence of intent to discriminate.

    The Court specifically held that disparate-impact claims are consistent with the central purpose of the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted to eliminate discrimination in housing. This decision will provide opportunities for developers to protect their property rights and interests by challenging discriminatory local zoning practices under federal law, and will likely provide further opportunities to vindicate the objectives of the Act by constructing inclusionary developments and other affordable housing developments in communities with such exclusionary zoning practices.

    A copy of the opinion is available here.

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