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Housing Discrimination: U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Finding a place to live, acquiring lodging, or purchasing a home fulfills our basic needs of shelter, but also provides a sense of comfort and security. Imagine when this security is disrupted due to housing discrimination; it can be a devastating obstacle to an essential part of your life. Housing discrimination is illegal under federal law via the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA). Under the FHA, in the sale and rental of housing, property owners, landlords, and financial institutions may not take any of the following actions (or inaction) based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability/handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Making housing available
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell, or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

Although this behavior is forbidden, housing discrimination occurs and is often unreported. However, there are times when it is reported and victims take their grievances to court. The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed violations under the FHA several times. Below is a list of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving fair housing and housing discrimination, including links to the full text of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Below is a list of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving fair housing and housing discrimination, including links to the full text of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

  • Buchanan v. Warley (1917) The Supreme Court's decision struck down ordinances that enforced the denial of housing to minority groups in white-zoned areas.
  • Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) This decision held that "racially restrictive covenants" in property deeds are unenforceable. In this case, the "covenants" were terms or obligations in property deeds that limited property rights to Caucasians, excluding members of other races.
  • Jones v. Mayer Co. (1968) The Court held in this case that federal law bars all racial discrimination (private or public), in sale or rental of property.
  • Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. (1977) In this case, the Court declared that proof of a racially discriminatory intent is required in claim that race was a motivating factor in a land zoning decision.
  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (2015) In this case, the Court decided that claims of racial discrimination in housing cases should not be limited by questions of intent. The Court upheld the application of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act. Although the Court upheld the theory, it did impose major limitations on its application in practice.
  • Bank of America v. City of Miami (2017) The Court ruled that cities can sue banks over Fair Housing Act violations if they target minorities.

Speak to an Attorney about Your Housing Discrimination Claim

Housing discrimination threatens one's stability and limits housing choices and opportunities. Have you been a victim of housing discrimination by a denial of housing, or unfair terms based on your race, religion, or other protected characteristic? If you have experienced these situations or have been otherwise mistreated regarding housing issues, take action. Speak to an attorney about the possibility of filing a discrimination claim.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney
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