Woodstock Institute strongly urges Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Richard Durbin to vote against budget revisions under consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee today that would negatively affect the disparate impact doctrine, which is crucial to the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). President Obama’s Administration requested $45.6 million for the Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) in 2016, which provides funds to fair housing organizations and non-profits that detect housing discrimination and assist victims of discrimination. However, the House of Representatives has proposed cuts to this budget, which would reduce or eliminate funding for organizations that conduct fair housing testing.
In 2014, eight Illinois organizations received over $2.8 million to help enforce fair housing rules. Budget cuts would limit these organizations’ ability to meet critical needs, such as conducting fair housing testing; supporting the recovery from the foreclosure crisis; and advancing the housing rights of people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and other underserved communities.
The appropriations bill would also prohibit the implementation of HUD disparate impact regulations. Under the disparate impact doctrine, facially neutral polices or practices can be considered discriminatory if they disproportionately impact groups based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, or familial status (the “protected classes”) in a negative way, regardless of intent, and there is an alternative way to meet the legitimate goal of the policy or practice in a way that does create a disparate impact. The disparate impact doctrine has been a critical tool against systematic housing discrimination for many decades.
Housing segregation limits community growth and limits access to important resources such as hospitals, transportation, and better schools. Sen. Kirk and Sen. Durbin sit on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, which gives them the unique opportunity to stand for protected populations and vote against the House’s budget cuts. Many families and individuals are just beginning to get back on their feet and find affordable housing in the wake of the housing market crash. Supporting and funding fair housing organizations will help provide protections for underserved populations so that they will have access to equitable housing opportunities.