Page:Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.pdf/3

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Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)


ADEA. Although the FHA does not reiterate Title VII’s exact language, Congress chose words that serve the same purpose and bear the same basic meaning but are consistent with the FHA's structure and objectives. The FHA contains the phrase "because of race," but Title VII and the ADEA also contain that wording and this Court nonetheless held that those statutes impose disparate-impact liability.

The 1988 amendments signal that Congress ratified such liability. Congress knew that all nine Courts of Appeals to have addressed the question had concluded the FHA encompassed disparate-impact claims, and three exemptions from liability in the 1988 amendments would have been superfluous had Congress assumed that disparate-impact liability did not exist under the FHA. Recognition of disparate-impact claims is also consistent with the central purpose of the FHA, which, like Title VII and the ADEA, was enacted to eradicate discriminatory practices within a sector of the Nation’s economy. Suits targeting unlawful zoning laws and other housing restrictions that unfairly exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods without sufficient justification are at the heartland of disparate-impact liability. See, e.g., Huntington v. Huntington Branch, NAACP, 488 U. S. 15, 16–18. Recognition of disparate-impact liability under the FHA plays an important role in uncovering discriminatory intent: it permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment.

But disparate-impact liability has always been properly limited in key respects to avoid serious constitutional questions that might arise under the FHA, e.g., if such liability were imposed based solely on a showing of a statistical disparity. Here, the underlying dispute involves a novel theory of liability that may, on remand, be seen simply as an attempt to second-guess which of two reasonable approaches a housing authority should follow in allocating tax credits for low-income housing. An important and appropriate means of ensuring that disparate-impact liability is properly limited is to give housing authorities and private developers leeway to state and explain the valid interest their policies serve, an analysis that is analogous to Title VII’s business necessity standard. It would be paradoxical to construe the FHA to impose onerous costs on actors who encourage revitalizing dilapidated housing in the Nation’s cities merely because some other priority might seem preferable. A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity. A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas. Courts must