Supporters from fair housing, education, health, technology, finance, government & law challenge HUD proposal to gut disparate impact tool under the Fair Housing Act as comment period ends

WASHINGTON—Over 45,000 people and organizations submitted comments in response to a Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) proposed rule that would gut an essential civil rights tool. The Trump administration proposed the rule  in August and has since received widespread opposition from a wide array of civil rights advocates, legal experts and business groups across the country.

The proposed rule would severely weaken a critical tool for addressing housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, called “disparate impact.” This is one of the Trump administration’s most extreme moves to dismantle anti-discrimination laws.

Thirteen former Department of Justice officials and twenty-two State Attorneys General submitted comments in support of disparate impact, as did the United States Commission on Civil Rights and FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra. Scores of national advocacy groups, think tanks, public and private entities, and Members of Congress submitted comments in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal. Read key quotes from these and other submitted comments HERE.

Policymakers who oppose the rule include Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) who submitted a comment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who published an op-ed in support of disparate impact in the Boston Globe, and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MA) and Doug Jones (D-AL), who criticized HUD’s intentions for the rule during Senate testimony last month. Eleven representatives from Illinois, including Reps. Jan SchakowskyCheri Bustos and Mike Quigley, submitted a comment on behalf of their constituents opposing HUD’s proposed rule.

“The proposed changes to HUD’s disparate impact standards are an alarming step backwards and would return our nation’s housing policy to a darker time,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in a comment letter to HUD. “It would reverse nearly half a century of progress and hard-earned protections against housing discrimination.”

The Fair Housing Act bars not only intentional discrimination but also the use of policies that appear neutral on their face but unnecessarily harm vulnerable populations such as communities of color. The proposed rule would allow financial institutions, insurance companies, and housing providers to engage in covert discriminatory practices by dramatically weakening disparate impact liability.

Housing discrimination harms many diverse communities around the country, including families with children, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, people of faith, and communities of color. AARP submitted a comment in support of disparate impact that illustrates how the proposed rule will negatively affect older Americans who simply want to age in place in their communities. Other groups who have submitted comments on behalf of impacted individuals include National Association of Real Estate Brokers, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, Asian Real Estate Association of America, Lending Club, Howard University School of Law, New America’s Open Technology Institute and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“A vast majority of housing discrimination cases are unreported, which is why it’s so critical that we come together to lift up the voices of those who would be harmed by this proposed rule,” said Lisa Rice, president & CEO of NFHA. “Thousands of people across the country have come together to support disparate impact and to let HUD know that we will not stand by and watch them attack this essential civil rights tool.”

Leaders of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Poverty and Race Research Action Council, American Civil Liberties Union, and Center for Responsible Lending launched the Defend Civil Rights campaign in August to express opposition to this proposed rule and encourage comments to HUD.

“Through the mobilization of tens of thousands of grassroots advocates in the public comment process, the civil rights community has demonstrated that we will not allow this administration to turn back the clock on civil rights without a fight,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Now, HUD must do the right thing and rescind this proposed regulation. Our ability to combat structural racism in housing depends on it.”

“When lenders and property owners discriminate against people looking for homes, it jeopardizes the foundation for building our very best lives,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If the Trump administration succeeds in rewriting federal housing protections, companies will have an easier time taking advantage of families and millions of people will have a harder time fighting back. Our government should be committed to protecting people’s right to live wherever they choose. We urge Department of Housing and Urban Development officials to get on the right side of progress and strike down this proposed rule.”

PRRAC Executive Director Philip Tegeler called the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “a deeply cynical proposal that would put most types of modern housing discrimination beyond the reach of the courts.”

PRRAC Deputy Director Megan Haberle also stressed that “HUD is ignoring the historical and current practices that continue to drive segregation in our cities and metro areas.”

The campaign drove thousands of comments to HUD opposing the Trump administration’s attack on disparate impact and the fundamental civil rights of millions of people. Coalition members and allies voiced their opposition to the rule in CNBCSalonSan Francisco Chronicle and American Banker, and in local media outlets across the country, including Detroit Free PressIndiana LawyerRichmond Times-Dispatch andInforum (North Dakota).

Among the thousands of comments submitted in opposition to the rule, signers include:

  • 11 Representatives from Illinois
  • 13 Former Department of Justice Officials
  • 22 State Attorneys General
  • AARP
  • ACLU
  • AI NOW Institute and Center on Race
  • Asian Real Estate Association of America, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and National Association of Real Estate Brokers
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Center for Responsible Lending
  • FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Manufactured Housing Institute
  • NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
  • National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders
  • National Fair Housing Alliance
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Poverty and Race Research Action Council
  • Real Estate Trade Association
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • United State Commission on Civil Rights
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty
  • ZestFinance

The Defend Civil Rights campaign will continue to share the stories of those who would be harmed by this proposed rule as HUD reviews the public comments.

To learn more about the campaign to Defend Civil Rights, visit www.defendcivilrights.org. Together, we can keep housing fair.