WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reinstate a rule protecting Americans from housing discrimination that was scrapped by the Trump administration.
A coalition of 23 attorneys general, led by AG Racine, North Carolina AG Josh Stein, New York AG Letitia James, and Washington AG Bob Ferguson, submitted a comment letter supporting HUD’s proposed reinstatement of its “discriminatory effects” rule. The rule, originally implemented in 2013 and effectively gutted by the Trump Administration in 2020, facilitates legal challenges to policies that lead to systemic inequalities in housing.
“Too many Americans—including many District residents—struggle to find safe and affordable housing, and they should not face additional barriers created by illegal discrimination,” said AG Racine. “We have seen again and again that even policies that seem neutral can create or reinforce systemic inequalities and unfairly lock individuals out of housing opportunities. Our coalition strongly supports this rule because it strengthens enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, and we hope HUD will consider adopting changes to make it even stronger in the future.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related services because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. The discriminatory effects (also referred to as disparate impact) rule, originally implemented in 2013, lays out a framework for challenging policies that are not discriminatory on their face, but that lead to individuals being excluded from housing opportunities based on protected characteristics. The 2013 rule provided a clear test for determining whether a policy was illegally discriminatory.
HUD is proposing to reinstate the 2013 rule, thereby revoking an unlawful 2020 replacement that had serious legal defects and resulted in inadequate protections for people who were being discriminated against. The Trump administration’s 2020 rule made it more difficult for valid legal claims to proceed by making it harder to prove a policy was discriminatory and placing a greater burden on the people who were being discriminated against.
Attorneys general rely on the disparate impact test to combat discrimination by challenging housing policies that are not facially discriminatory but have a discriminatory effect. These challenges help to ensure more equal housing opportunities. For example, states have relied on disparate impact theories in enforcement actions brought against mortgage lenders using discretionary pricing systems that have resulted in African American and Hispanic borrowers being disproportionately placed in high-cost loans and having to pay much higher interest rates.
In their comments, the attorneys general contend that the reinstated rule better aligns with the Fair Housing Act and judicial precedent. The attorneys general also suggest that HUD should consider further strengthening the rule in the future and consider the additional discriminatory effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic hardships on people across the country.
AG Racine is joined in sending today’s comments by the attorneys general of North Carolina, New York, Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia.
A copy of the comment letter is available here.
Protecting Civil Rights
OAG’s Public Advocacy Division (PAD) investigates and brings lawsuits to challenge discriminatory and unlawful policies and practices that harm District residents, including in the provision of housing. For example, OAG reached settlements with Evolve, LLC and Curtis Investment Group for unlawfully discriminating against low-income residents who use on housing vouchers, requiring the companies to pay up to $250,000 and $900,000 to the District, respectively. In July 2020, OAG announced a tranche of lawsuits against 16 real estate companies and professionals engaged in illegal source of income discrimination. The office has also worked with Apartments.com and Zillow to fight housing discrimination on their platforms. Additionally, OAG has reached a settlement with a home repair company that illegally refused to do business in certain District neighborhoods. Learn more about the District’s civil rights protections and how OAG is working to enforce them.
If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you may report it to OAG by:
- Submitting a civil rights tip online
- Calling the OAG Consumer Hotline at (202) 442-9828
- E-mailing OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
- Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 400 6th Street NW, Suite 10100, Washington, D.C. 20001
OAG’s civil rights work complements the work of the Office of Human Rights (OHR), which is the primary District agency that investigates individual discrimination complaints. You can file a complaint with OHR at ohr.dc.gov or call 202-727-4559.