supreme court iStock_000000865139_LargeThe Supreme Court ruled Thursday that disparate impact claims are available under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

In a 5-4 decision, a deeply divided Court held that violations of the Fair Housing Act can be established by showing that a neutral policy or practice has a disproportionate effect on minority groups.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court. Joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, the majority found the recognition of disparate impact claims consistent with the FHA’s goal of eliminating discriminatory practices within the housing market.

The case, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Projects, Inc., brought this issue before the Court for the third time in three years, but was the first to make it to oral arguments. In 2008, the Inclusive Communities Project (ICP) brought disparate impact claims against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, alleging that the department violated the FHA. ICP argued that the department furthered segregated housing patterns by distributing too many tax credits for low-income housing in minority inner-city areas, and not enough in nonminority suburban areas. Texas, on the other hand, argued that disparate impact liability is not available under the FHA, and focused on the statutory language of the Act.

After considering the language of the FHA, the Court’s interpretation of similar antidiscrimination statutes, lower court rulings, and the statutory purpose, the Court held that, within limitation, discrimination in housing can be determined without looking into intent.

More detailed analysis to follow.