Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread: Housing Discrimination and a Chopin Ballade!

Raisin in the Sun still

You’ve seen “A Raisin in the Sun,” right? Maybe it’s time to watch it again.

Here’s something that probably won’t surprise you:

[T]hat racist intent is difficult to prove does not mean that discrimination does not exist. According to a study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, African Americans and Asians who are looking for a new home are shown or informed of 15 to 19 percent fewer listings than white homebuyers with similar credit and housing interests. Similarly, African Americans with good credit were 3.5 times as likely as whites with similar credit to receive higher-interest-rate loans during the subprime lending boom. Latinos were 3.1 more likely than whites to receive the same loans. The Federal Reserve determined in 2009 that African Americans were twice as likely to be denied a loan as similarly situated whites.

That’s the sort of thing, and I hope you don’t mind, that led us to pass the Fair Housing Act almost 50 years ago.  Obviously, that law doesn’t do the entire job or the discrepancies in the above figures wouldn’t exist, but they’re a lot better than they once were — or could be now.

So this may surprise you.  Housing discrimination without effective judicial deterrent may be coming back into style.  DC Court of Appeals Judge Richard Leon recently wrote an opinion that would pull the guts out of the nation’s housing discrimination law — and the Supreme Court looks likely to approve his views over those of the 11 Circuits that have adopted the opposing view.

According to nearly every single federal appeals court in the country, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits two forms of discrimination: “disparate treatment,” which can be proved by showing that a realtor, landlord or lender engaged in intentional discrimination, and “disparate impact,” which can be proved when a business’ policy leads to disproportionately adverse outcomes for racial minorities or for another protected class of people. As Judge Leon’s opinion acknowledges, 11 of the 12 federal appeals courts that have jurisdiction over fair housing claims have held that the law authorizes both disparate treatment and disparate impact lawsuits. The twelfth appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has not considered whether disparate impact lawsuits are permitted under federal fair housing law.

Without disparate impact suits, discrimination cases become extraordinarily difficult to win. Fair housing plaintiffs and their lawyers are rarely gifted with the ability to read minds, and few defendants are foolish enough to put in writing the fact that they chose not to rent or sell a house to someone because they are black. So disparate treatment lawsuits often fail for a lack of evidence that a particular defendant had a racist intent (or some other impermissible intent) when they decided not to do business with the plaintiff.

Making it easier to get away with racial discrimination (among other sorts) is not progress.  Am I overestimating Orange County to think that we’d overwhelming think that this is wrong?


This week’s Vern video:  Chopin’s Third Ballade.  This is the piece that Vern often will play when someone says “Do your favorite piece” … if he’s in a good enough mood…


This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decency and decorum.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)