Almost lost in the wave of responses to the recent Supreme Court decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act and allowing gays and lesbians to marry was the significance of the court’s 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 to 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 home buyers.
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. Now, entire cities are mostly rich (San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle) or mostly impoverished (Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia).
Because a disproportionate number of the nation’s poor are African American or Latino, we’re experiencing far more segregation geographically. Which is why, for example, black students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago. More than 2 million black students now attend schools where 90 percent of the student body is minority.
According to a new study by Stanford researchers, even many middle-income black families remain in poor neighborhoods with low-quality schools, few parks and playgrounds, high crime, and inadequate public transportation. Blacks and Hispanics typically need higher incomes than whites in order to live in affluent neighborhoods.