Attorney General James Opposes Rule Changes That Would Harm Fair Housing  

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General James today co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general opposing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed changes to its Disparate Impact Rule. While the current rule protects against discriminatory housing and lending practices that have the effect of harming individuals based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status, the proposed changes would create uncertainty and make it harder for states to ensure equal housing opportunities for all Americans. 

“More than 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, it remains one of our strongest protections against residential segregation,” said Attorney General James. “HUD’s proposed rule undoes decades of work to combat housing discrimination, and disarms states of the critical tools they need to promote equal access to housing opportunities for protected groups. I join my fellow attorneys general in urging the Trump Administration to abandon the proposed rule.”    

The coalition — led by Attorney General James, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — submitted comments arguing that the proposed rule changes have substantial defects. The changes ignore the Supreme Court’s binding interpretation of the Fair Housing Act and drastically exceed HUD’s authority by altering judicial procedures. The changes also provide more immunity to lending and insurance companies at the expense of consumers, making it more likely that claims with merit will be dismissed. 

The attorneys general have wide-ranging experience in using disparate impact liability to enforce fair housing laws, combat housing discrimination, and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to obtain housing. States have regularly challenged housing policies that have a discriminatory effect, including zoning ordinances, mortgage lending discrimination, and English-only policies. Many times, these policies disproportionately hurt minority residents and vulnerable populations, such as domestic violence victims. 

Congressional representatives from New York also expressed concern regarding HUD’s proposed rule.

“We have not resolved this nation’s problems related to housing and residential segregation,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “For families with limited to low-incomes, the Disparate Impact Rule and standing affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2015 is the standard by which New Yorkers, including my constituents, may have to take recourse against unscrupulous actors and policies that would disenfranchise minority residents and communities of color. In place of this proposed rule, HUD should focus vigorously on ensuring compliance with the standards set forth by the Fair Housing Act and existing disparate impact rule, which allows victims of systemic discrimination to seek recourse and change policies that limit housing opportunities.”

“Safe, quality housing is a human right, but HUD continues to gut protections and push policies that undermine our ability to ensure fair housing opportunities," said Congressman Eliot Engel (NY-16). "This or any other Administration should be working to strengthen the Fair Housing Act, not tear it down. I applaud Attorney General James for once again taking a stand on behalf of all New Yorkers against these discriminatory actions.” 

“The Fair Housing Act makes it clear that Ben Carson’s top priority should be ensuring we all have access to housing — but once again the Trump Administration has shown it has no interest in promoting equality for all Americans," said Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). "I’m proud to join Attorney General James in standing up for every New Yorker’s right to safe, affordable housing in their community, and will fight tooth and nail against HUD’s proposed rule change rolling back anti-discrimination policies.”

In August, a group of 17 attorneys general also sent a letter to HUD, urging the department to keep its current Disparate Impact Rule to protect consumers.  

Attorney General James is joined in submitting today’s comments by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.