WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 26, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. reaffirms the value of disparate-impact analysis in ensuring fair housing. The decision also adds clarity for planners, local officials and courts on how disparate-impact analysis can be used. While preserving this important tool in promoting fair housing, the Court also validated the ability of local communities to legitimately consider competing interests such as revitalizing urban communities in making housing decisions.
The American Planning Association (APA) filed an amicus brief in support of the Inclusive Communities Project. APA is pleased with the outcome and is thankful to the Supreme Court for preserving such an important tool.
“APA applauds the Court on upholding disparate-impact as part of planning for fair housing,” said Carol Rhea, FAICP, president of the American Planning Association. “APA continues to be a strong advocate of preserving Fair Housing practices in communities across the country. The ruling further underscores the value of planning analysis in making transparent, local decisions on fair, affordable housing.”
In this case, a Dallas-based housing advocacy non-profit argued that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) gave tax credits to developments built in primarily minority-dominated areas, thus fostering racial segregation. The issue before the court was whether the Fair Housing Act allows lawsuits based on disparate-impact — that is, an allegation that a law or practice has a discriminatory effect, even if it wasn’t based on a discriminatory purpose. In upholding the use of disparate-impact, Justice Kennedy affirmed that fair housing decisions could be considered based on “the consequences of an action rather than the actor’s intent.”
In today’s split decision (5-4), the Supreme Court has handed down clear guidance about how lower courts should address the varying issues local developers of affordable housing encounter. In his majority decision, Justice Kennedy validated the importance of competing objectives in local communities, including rejuvenating a city core, addressing costs and traffic patterns, and preserving historic architecture. The Supreme Court has also made clear that the Fair Housing Act “does not decree a particular vision of urban development.”
“An important cornerstone of federal housing law was reinforced today,” said Patricia Salkin, chair of APA’s Amicus Curiae Committee. “For the first time, the Supreme Court has provided clarity to planners on how disparate-impact analysis should be used.
“Although there will be healthy discussions about the difficulties that will be involved as courts attempt to satisfy all of the competing objectives that the Supreme Court’s guidance has validated, communities will be better off as a result of this decision,” said John M. Baker, partner at Greene Espel, PLLP, and member of APA’s Amicus Curiae Committee.
APA and the Housing Land Advocates filed an amicus brief on behalf of the respondent, urging the court to affirm the Federal Housing Authority’s disparate-impact standard. In its brief, APA argued that “the costs of complying with FHA’s disparate-impact standard have not proven to be unduly burdensome for planning and development professionals.” The brief also emphasized that the disparate-impact framework is vital for ensuring transparency and inclusiveness remain part of the planning and development process.
For more information about the case, register online for APA’s 2015 Planning Law Reviewaudio/web conference to be held on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic, and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with almost 40,000 members worldwide in nearly 100 countries.