New U.S. President Joe Biden has put racial equality in housing at the top of his agenda in his first week in the White House.
On Tuesday he signed several executive orders, including one that directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to reassess the impact of regulatory actions on fair housing policies and laws. It orders the HUD to ensure that the requirements of the Fair Housing Act are being followed.
The Hill reported that Biden’s order states that the Fair Housing Act “requires the federal government to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination, including disparate impact discrimination that appears neutral but has an unjustified discriminatory effect in practice.”
Disparate impact is a legal doctrine that enables courts to consider certain policies and practices discriminatory if it is found that it has a disproportionately adverse impact on any group based on race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability, and there is no legitimate business necessity for that policy. The U.S. Supreme Court found in its “Inclusive Communities” decision in 2015 that disparate impact is a cognizable form of discrimination within the Fair Housing Act.
Under President Donald Trump, the White House revised the HUD’s interpretation of the disparate impact rule, making it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove discrimination under this theory of proof, The Hill reported. Last year, a federal judge blocked the HUD from implementing that new rule.
Biden’s executive order calls for the HUD to reassess and determine if the disparate impact rule decreed under Trump hurts any group’s access to fair housing, and whether or not it should return to the previous standard.
Biden last week signed a series of executive orders that demanded the federal government “pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all”.
“The nation is ready for change,” Biden said on Tuesday. “But government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day … Again, I’m not promising we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you: We’re going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort.”
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