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Ore. senators fight changes to Fair Housing Act standard

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., called on the Trump administration Monday to reject proposed changes to the Fair Housing Act they said would effectively eliminate the disparate impact standard, a key tool to root out and eradicate hidden housing discrimination.  

In a letter to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the Oregon senators joined 44 other colleagues to urge Secretary Carson to reject changes proposed in HUD's August 19 Proposed Rulemaking: HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard (the Proposed Rule). 

“We are deeply troubled by the direction this Administration is heading in relation to Fair Lending and Fair Housing protections,” the senators wrote. “Housing is the foundation of opportunity for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and society. Preventing housing discrimination—including subtle, hidden discrimination—is central to the mission Congress charged HUD to carry out.  We urge you to uphold this mission, reject the changes in the Proposed Rule, and preserve the existing rule.”

The Proposed Rule would effectively eliminate use of the disparate impact standard for fair housing enforcement. The current standard allows people to challenge policies that result in discrimination, even if the intent or the language of the policy when created was not discriminatory.

The Proposed Rule simultaneously raises the bar for victims of discrimination to bring complaints under the Fair Housing Act, while carving out new avenues for financial institutions, governments, and other housing market participants to continue discriminatory practices.

The lawmakers said the administration’s proposal actually exempts policies that are created by algorithms or other automated decision systems, even if the policies increase discrimination.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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