Segregated TX Housing Case Goes to Washington

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court took up a case Thursday involving claims that Texas used low-income housing tax credits to segregate housing in Dallas.
     Under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, developments receive low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) that restrict them from using a prospective tenant’s Section 8 status as a basis to deny them housing.
     In a 2008 complaint, a nonprofit called the Inclusive Communities Project complained that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had disproportionately allocated LIHTC in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of minorities.
     Since such units are not available in predominantly white neighborhoods, the nonprofit said that the program perpetuated segregated housing patterns.
     A federal judge granted the group partial summary judgment, finding that Inclusive Communities adequately demonstrated intentional discrimination and disparate impact.
     After a bench trial on the group’s remaining claims, the court found for the state on the claims under the 14th Amendment and two other federal civil-rights laws, Sections 1982 and 1983.
     The court found for Inclusive Communities, however, on its claim for discriminatory impact under the Fair Housing Act.
     A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit reversed this past March, saying that the court used the wrong standard to determine disparate impact under the FHA.
     “We adopt the standard announced in recently enacted Department of Housing and Urban Development (‘HUD’) regulations regarding the burdens of proof in disparate impact housing discrimination cases, and remand to the district court for application of this standard in the first instance,” the ruling states.
     In its petition to the Supreme Court, the Texas housing department asked whether disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.
     The justices agreed Thursday to answer this question but did not otherwise comment on the case, as is their custom.

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