Fair Housing and Discrimination After Inclusive Communities

By David L. Callies and Derek B. Simon

Some of the most effective means of combating housing discrimination are statutes prohibiting discrimination against certain protected minority classes. The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) represents a model for such statutory prohibitions. The FHA prohibits discrimination by both public (e.g., state and local government agencies) and private (e.g., landlords and real estate brokers) actors on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, family status, or disability. Following a US Supreme Court decision in the 1970s, proof of intent to discriminate became a prerequisite to bringing an action under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977). But a suit under the FHA does not need to demonstrate such intent. For decades, the federal circuit courts of appeals have sustained dozens of lawsuits claiming discrimination based simply on the disparate impact of government or private actions on one of the protected classes.

Fair Housing Act (FHA)

Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The FHA protects the following classes and no others (in particular, there is no per se protection for economic status): race, color, religion, sex (but not sexual orientation), family status, national origin, and handicapped status.

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