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U.S. Government Trying Harder To Fight Housing Discrimination

For Rent, Unless You're Black

In an attempt to better address housing discrimination, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, has recently announced a "Disparate Impact Rule" that adds more punch to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). FHA prohibits discrimination in any housing-related transaction based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.

The Disparate Impact Rule is appropriately named because it clarifies under what circumstances housing practices may have an impartial, discriminatory or "disparate" effect on persons. Basically, what the rule states is that even though there was no intent by the offender to discriminate, if the act does indeed discriminate, that person has violated the Fair Housing Act law. Examples of discriminatory acts include refusing to approve a mortgage loan or rent housing to someone based on the fact that they are members of one of the seven protected classes.

The FHA has two important functions. It must eliminate discrimination in housing and also create more integrated living choices. The wording of the new rule was important to clarify the law, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of fair housing law enforcement, and eliminate frivolous lawsuits. It also serves the purpose of protecting more protected-class individuals from being discriminated against. Offenders will not be able to say they didn't mean it.

Here is one example of how the law might help the disabled. A disabled Dallas man living in a rental property adopted two cats. His bipolar illness and head injuries has made it difficult for him to find a job. The apartment complex wants to charge him $600 for a pet deposit; his rent is $550. His choices are to come up with the money, give up the cats or move out. But, as William Smith stated, “They really help me through my day. They’re just good therapy for anyone who has an issue. These cats are really all I’ve got. They’re my whole life.”

For more details, visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing

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