Public comment letters are an increasingly effective tool in legislative advocacy at the federal level, with advocates across the country utilizing this format as a way to submit feedback to the government and make their voices heard. In the last few months, Empower Missouri has urged our base to submit their own comments on various policy changes, including SNAP eligibility, housing discrimination, and more.
We wanted to share the comment we submitted against a proposed change to the disparate impact standard as applied to the Fair Housing Act, so our supporters could get a better idea of what these comments look like and why they’re so impactful. See our comment below and watch the blog at empowerimissouri.org for more information about public comments soon.
October 15, 2019
Office of the General Counsel
Rules Docket Clerk
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street SW, Room 10276
Washington, DC 20410-0001
Re: Docket No. FR-6111-P-02
Reconsideration of HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard
Submitted via regulations.gov
Dear Sir or Madame,
We are writing today to oppose the proposed changes HUD’s implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s the Disparate Impact Standard. This long standing legal precedent supports vulnerable people in today’s housing market. As HUD is aware, the legacy of formal and informal housing policies such as redlining are still felt today. The Fair Housing Act is one way the federal government has attempted to address their own harmful policies. While some progress has been made, it is not yet the time to pull back on these reparative policies.
The Disparate Impact standard as written burdens the property owner or manager to show that they considered the impact of a specific policy before implementing. It weighs impact over intent. This is an important consumer protection. It is difficult to prove someone’s intent, however the impact of selection criteria or other policies impact the day to day lives of renters and home purchasers every day.
Current research is increasingly supporting that housing is hugely impactful in our lives. Quality housing can reduce healthcare costs, or it can make us more sick by forcing us to breathe in mold and live with bugs. Stable housing increases the chance children graduate from high school and get a good paying job. Strong neighborhoods reduce crime rates and increase community involvement. Stable housing is linked to lower rates of depression, cancer, and high blood pressure. Landlord and property management companies are engaging in business which effects the public health of our communities. The Fair Housing Act is an important support in stabilizing that market.
The disparate impact standard is one way to begin to level the playing field in housing for targeted vulnerable populations. Past HUD policies were racially targeted to African Americans, creating the legacy of housing discrimination now. HUD must continue to provide a way for victims of racial profiling to gain access to the housing of their choice. Further, this disparate impact standard applies to more than just race, it provides recourse for families with children, people with disabilities, and other protected classes.
Housing discrimination persists in our communities in Missouri. Landlords and realtors are less outspoken about this discrimination, but research shows that families still face barriers to accessing housing in communities of their choice. This supports the need for more enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, not less.
The proposed changes to this rule will dismantle an important enforcement tool for combatting discrimination. The natural result of this change will lead to more housing discrimination and more people harmed by it. This will further limit access to safe and appropriate housing for People of Color, people living with disabilities, people in the LGBT community, families with children, and more. People living in Missouri need the protection of the Fair Housing Act and the disparate impact standard.
Sarah Owsley Townsend
Policy and Advocacy Lead, Housing
This letter included several footnotes. If you would like to see the sources for this letter, please let us know by emailing [email protected]