Supreme Court Upholds the Right of Local Communities to Fight for Fair Housing in Bank of America v. City of Miami

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of cities to sue banks whose practices harm the municipalities and their residents.  The decision in Bank of America, et al. v. City of Miami strongly ratified a core principle of the Fair Housing Act while leaving open a central question of how proximate cause is defined under the law.

In its lawsuit, the City of Miami outlined its allegations that Bank of America and Wells Fargo targeted predatory loans against African American and Latino borrowers and that when the unsustainable loans inevitably collapsed and houses fell into foreclosure, the City incurred added costs in police and code enforcement services and diminished tax revenue stemming from the bad loans.  The City argued that the banks practices cause “stagnation and decline in African-American and Latino neighborhoods” and “hindered the City’s efforts to create integrated, stable neighborhoods.”  The City’s claim highlights the devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis and the harmful reach of discrimination in communities of color.

The decision reaffirms bedrock Supreme Court fair housing jurisprudence-in TrafficanteGladstone, and Havens Realty– interpreting a broad scope of the law for those seeking to redress harm from discriminatory conduct, whether in the form of a tenant being denied the opportunity to live in an integrated community or a city that loses tax revenue from racial steering practices.

Justice Breyer wrote in his 5-3 majority opinion that the City’s financial injuries including “lost tax revenue and extra municipal expenses” fall within the “zone of interests” the Fair Housing Act protects, basing his analysis in principles of stare decisis and Congressional statutory ratification, and preserving the ability of cities and other indirect victims of discrimination to seek redress in the courts.

Indeed, Breyer opined that the Court is undeterred in upholding its previous rulings that the Fair Housing Act “reflects congressional intent to confer standing… as broadly as is permitted by Article III of the Constitution.”  By reestablishing the broad application of standing under the court’s “zone of interest” framework, the decision serves to buttress a central pillar of the law under recent developments in Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The court left open the question of whether the banks’ misconduct proximately caused the City’s financial injury, remanding that matter to the 11th Circuit which previously only assessed harm on the basis of whether the injury could have foreseeably flown from the discrimination alleged.  Justice Breyer noted that “the housing market is interconnected with economic and social life,” such that a fair housing violation may “‘be expected to cause ripples of harm to flow’ far beyond the defendant’s misconduct,” but he reiterated that proximate cause “requires some direct relation between the injury asserted the injurious conduct alleged.”

The court declined to draw precise boundaries on what constitutes proximate cause under the law, citing a lack of guidance on the question from the lower courts, so now the civil rights advocates and banking industry defense lawyers lined up on either side of this dispute will follow the matter back down to the circuit courts.  With little guidance from the Supreme Court apart from the assertion that alleged harm must somehow be more than merely foreseeable, the fight over the reach of the Fair Housing Act lives on in the next phase of this case.

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APRIL IS FAIR HOUSING MONTH! Come celebrate Fair Housing Month with us as we welcome you to attend our signature event. See below for more details. RSVP’s are required and due by April 17th. Event & Valet Parking FREE!!!

FH Month 2017

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FHC FILES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT WITH THE HUD AGAINST THE CITY OF BOYNTON BEACH FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES”

group homes

 

 

The Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, Inc. (FHC) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against the City of Boynton Beach (the City). The complaint alleges discrimination based on Handicap/Disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

On November 5, 2016 the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released an updated guidance on the application of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to state and local land use and zoning laws.  The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions, as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA.

 On December 6, 2016, the City of Boynton Beach City Commissioners adopted Resolution R16-165, declaring the commencement of a study period related to Respondent CBB zoning and use regulations concerning group homes; and to abate the issuance of any permit for group homes within its city limits until June 4, 2017; and undertake review and revision of the zoning and use regulations as they relate to group housing within the City of Boynton Beach. On December 19, 2016 the City again voted  unanimously to institute it’s six month moratorium on all group homes, in violation of Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

“Suppose a municipality issued a moratorium barring families with children, Blacks or Latinos from moving to that City, while they study the law. No one would stand for that!” stated Vince Larkins, FHC President & CEO. “The idea that the City of Boynton Beach thinks that they can discriminate against a whole group of people is outrageous. The FHC will not sit idly by while people with disabilities are targeted, in violation of federal Fair Housing Act”, he further stated.

 Group homes cover a wide range of disabilities. Residents usually have some type of chronic mental disorder that impairs their ability to live independently. Many residents also have physical disabilities such as impairments of vision communication, or ambulation.

 

 

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Statement from Lisa Rice, Executive Vice President of the National Fair Housing Alliance on the Confirmation of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of HUD

NFHA

 

The National Fair Housing Alliance strongly urges Dr. Ben Carson, in his new role as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to tackle immediately the many critical housing challenges that our country faces.  Many of these are a legacy of the financial and foreclosure crises which disproportionately impacted America’s communities of color. These communities have yet to recover.  Housing inequality has had a devastating effect on individuals, communities and businesses and HUD plays a pivotal role in eliminating this inequality. The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and its members across the country invite Secretary Carson to work with us to address these pressing issues.

Housing discrimination continues to be a significant problem in this country, unfairly limiting people’s choices about where to live. NFHA estimates that more than 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur annually.During his confirmation hearing, Secretary Carson said he would “aggressively enforce the Fair Housing Act,” and referred to the law as, “one of the best pieces of legislation which we’ve had.”

To read NFHA’s more detailed statement on Secretary Carson’s confirmation and learn more about NFHA’s strategies to combat housing inequality and expand fair housing opportunities, click here
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