Almost lost by the wave of responses to the Supreme Court’s decisions last week upholding the Affordable Care Act and allowing gays and lesbians to marry was the significance of the Court’s third decision – on housing discrimination.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 requires plaintiffs to show only that the effect of a policy is discriminatory, not that defendants intended to discriminate.
The decision is important in the fight against economic apartheid in America – racial segregation on a much larger geographic scale than ever before.
The decision is likely to affect everything from bank lending practices whose effect is to harm low-income non-white borrowers, to zoning laws that favor higher-income white homebuyers.
First, some background. Americans are segregating ever more by income in terms of where we live.
Thirty years ago most cities contained a broad spectrum of residents from wealthy to poor. Today, entire cities are mostlyrich (San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle) or mostly impoverished (Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia).
Because a disproportionate number of the nation’s poor are black or Latino, we’re experiencing far more segregation geographically.