Nov 22, 2013

Disparate Impact saved again….

Back in October, we reported on a crucial housing case that had the potential of reversing the long standing disparate impact theory in housing discrimination law.  Housing advocates nationwide closely followed the case of the Township of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. The fundamental issue was whether disparate impact claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act.

The disparate impact standard has helped in the fight against housing discrimination, by enabling plaintiffs prove discrimination by focusing on the disparate impact of discriminatory housing policies and practices.  As our October report indicated, all U.S Appellate Courts have ruled on this issue and have held that the Fair Housing Act allows claims under a “disparate impact” theory. The case was scheduled to be heard before the US Supreme Court on December 4, 2013. However, lawyers from both sides reached a settlement agreement last week and would file a joint agreement to dismiss the petition filed with the Supreme Court and a joint stipulation of dismissal with the federal district court to end the litigation.

The parties in the case were the City of Mount Holly and property owners in the Mount Holly Gardens neighborhood, who claimed that the City’s aggressive redevelopment program had displaced hundreds of predominantly African American and Hispanic residents.  A Supreme Court ruling that disparate impact claims are not available under the FHA because of a lack of textual support would have carried serious implications for housing discrimination claims. This is the second time in recent years that the issue of disparate impact has fallen short of oral argument before the US Supreme Court. Currently, the disparate impact standard is still saved in cases under the Fair Housing Act.

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