John Paul Schnapper-Casteras is Special Counsel for Appellate and Supreme Court Advocacy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed an amicus brief in support of the respondents in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Community Project, Inc.
A fair and proper interpretation of the Fair Housing Act requires an understanding of the compelling reasons the Act was passed in the first place – and its necessity today. The historical perspective informs not only how the statute’s disparate-impact framework should be interpreted, but also which constitutional principles bear upon the Supreme Court’s analysis of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. The statute’s contemporary application demonstrates how the Act continues to fulfill its animating goals. Thus, there are two essential points to bear in mind. First, the Act is a response to an expansive system of racial residential segregation. Second, housing segregation has produced a lasting legacy of intertwined social and economic ills based on race that the Act continues to work to undo. Through careful burden shifting, the disparate-impact standard addresses both the direct vestiges of intentional housing discrimination, as well as the enduring disparities that such discrimination set in motion.