The following statement from President and CEO Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is in response to proposed changes to the disparate impact standard in implementing and enforcing the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation stands against a proposal by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change the way the disparate impact (DI) standard is applied when allegations of housing discrimination have been made. The DI standard is used when a policy seems neutral on the surface but disproportionately affects certain groups of people. HUD’s proposed changes would make it nearly impossible to prove housing discrimination using the DI standard, further hurting individuals and communities already facing significant prejudice in rental and mortgage lending decisions.
A safe, affordable, and stable home in a community with good schools, fair-paying jobs, and access to healthy foods and green spaces is foundational for well-being. But in our nation today, bias in rental, real estate, and mortgage lending practices persists at unjustifiably high rates for people of color, families with children, and those with disabilities among others—despite legal protections created through the Fair Housing Act and state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The proposed HUD rule, which would weaken those protections, would, in turn, perpetuate health inequities, many of which have roots in discriminatory housing policies of our nation’s past.
We urge HUD to preserve the Disparate Impact standard in its current form and to strengthen its enforcement of the FHA to ensure that everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for good health.
Our Foundation has submitted formal regulatory comments to HUD and will continue to monitor the developments on this issue.