Disparate impact case will hurt the poor

Washington Free Beacon:
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that racist intent is not necessary to prove accusations of racism in housing.

The court ruled 5-4 in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee, that the disparate impact doctrine could be applied to the Fair Housing Act. The case rested on whether Texas officials could be found liable for building low income housing in minority-centric areas rather than wealthier suburbs where the population is more likely to be white.

Kennedy ruled that plaintiffs could use demographic tests to prove that housing project locations are inherently racist.

“[FHA] permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment,” Kennedy ruled.

Amy Wax, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and disparate impact expert, said that the ruling could end up hurting the poor residents it is intended to help. If disparate impact is used to determine whether low-income housing belongs in poorer neighborhoods or wealthier suburbs, it could hamper the ability to efficiently build such housing anywhere.

“It will almost certainly result in a lot of worthy low income projects being held up indefinitely,” she said in a phone interview with the Washington Free Beacon. “On one hand you’re trying to integrate [communities], on the other hand there’s going to be backlogs and long waiting lists.”

A dissent authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only African-American justice, said that the court’s opinion injects racial considerations into all housing decisions.
I think it will lead to fewer homes being built for the poor.  Why take the chance that you will be sued for something you did not intend?


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