The next step in Trump’s never-ending quest to undo Obama era reforms comes in the form of changing housing discrimination regulations to make it more difficult for civil rights groups to prove discrimination while also giving defendants new ways to refute those claims.
Politico first reported the proposed changes, obtaining documents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the new proposed rules, plaintiffs would have to clear five hurdles instead of the current three to show discrimination. They would need to prove that not only does a certain housing policy cause a discriminatory effect but also that effect must be “arbitrary, artificial and unnecessary” to reaching a “legitimate objective.” Plaintiffs must establish a “robust causal link” between a policy and its effect.
“Claims relying on statistical disparities must articulate how the statistical analysis used supports a claim of disparate impact by providing an appropriate comparison which shows that the policy is the actual cause of the disparity,” the proposal states.
Additionally, they have to prove that the policy affects multiple members of a protected class, not just a single individual.
But the proposed policy doesn’t just make it more difficult for plaintiffs, it lays out additional ways defendants can refute claims that the algorithmic models they use cause discriminatory outcomes.
It’s hard to believe this proposal isn’t personal on some level to the president who, along with his father, was sued by the Department of Justice in the 1970s for discriminatory practices. Although the Trumps ultimately signed a consent decree and did not admit guilt, an investigation by the New York Times revealed that Trump Management employees were told to attach a piece of paper with a large letter “C” — for “colored” — to documents from Black applicants.
And a former doorman at a Trump building testified to the FBI that his supervisor told him, “If a black person came to 2650 Ocean Parkway and inquired about an apartment for rent, and he, that is [redacted] was not there at the time, that I should tell him that the rent was twice as much as it really was, in order that he could not afford the apartment.”
With Black homeownership at low levels similar to the 1960s, now is a particularly bad time to make proving discrimination more difficult. As Lisa Rice, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, told reporters on a call, “This effort to turn back the clock on civil rights is coming at a most inopportune time, and the Trump administration is keenly aware of it.”
These proposals seem to form the perfect Trump trifecta: help for those who own and control real estate, mixed with suppressing rights of minorities, all while rolling back another one of Obama’s reforms.