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Disparate Impact and AFFH: Two Powerful Fair Housing Tools
By Louise Dix
This past summer has been a positive one for fair housing.  Two major rulings have been upheld; disparate impact and affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH).   Although both tools have been in place for decades, the actions taken this summer serve to strengthen and further legitimize them. 

Disparate Impact
Disparate Impact may be defined as a legal doctrine under the Fair Housing Act which states that a policy may be considered discriminatory if it has a “disproportionately adverse impact” against any group based on protected class when there is no legitimate, non-discriminatory business need for the policy.

Federal courts, and specifically 11 appellate courts, have consistently upheld disparate impact as legitimate practice under the Fair Housing Act. There have been several attempts to bring this doctrine before the Supreme Court in order to remove it as a tool for fair housing.  The latest involved a case where the nonprofit Inclusive Communities Project asserted the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had contributed to "segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods."

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling on June 25, 2015, endorsed the notion of citing disparate impact in housing cases.  This means that the practice of using statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects without having to prove discriminatory intentions. Justice Kennedy wrote:
"Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation…The FHA must play an important part in avoiding the Kerner Commission’s grim prophecy that 'our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal.'…The Court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society." Continue reading about AFFH and Disparate Impact...
Louise Dix, AFFH specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, will be speaking on a panel on Creating Support for Diverse Housing Development at the League of Oregon Cities annual conference September 26, 2015  in Bend.  

Other panelists include:
  • Victor Chudowsky, Bend City Councilor 
  • Kim Travis, Oregon Housing and Community Services Department
  • Vern Palmer, Palmer Homes 
Our New Team Member, Isidro Reyes!
We are excited to have a new Intake Specialist, Isidro Reyes, join us. Isidro moved to Portland fifteen years ago from Mexico. He first started learning about social justice as a volunteer with Community Alliance of Tenants, and soon became a staff member at CAT. He enjoys working with housing consumers in advocating for their rights. His hobbies include exploring new hikes and working on home improvement projects. Congratulations are also in order for his wedding this November! 
Elizabeth Grey and Mary Ruiz answer questions at the Latino Home Fair, June 2015.
Elizabeth Grey Moves on from the FHCO

Elizabeth Grey has moved on to a new position as a financial educator with Catholic Charities. During her time with us, she successfully advocated for hundreds of Oregonians on their fair housing issues. Additionally, her exceptional work in developing best practices for complex issues such as hoarding and tenant screening will continue to guide us and others. We wish Elizabeth the best, and look forward to collaborating with her in her new role.
Our traveling exhibit, Anywhere But Here, has been on the road this summer. It was at the East Portland Home Fair, St. Helens Library, Neighborworks Umpqua in North Bend, and Tigard City Hall. Next stop is the Public Services Building in Hillsboro. We are currently scheduling for next year. Here are the details...

Check out the FHCO "Virtual Tour"

This popular 1.5 hour class is available for organizations and businesses.

Did you know…
  • Oregon’s Constitution prevented African Americans & Chinese Americans from owning any real estate and denied African Americans the right to live here? 
  • Until the 1950s most Oregon hotels, restaurants, theaters & amusement parks refused to serve African Americans, and many cities & towns had “Sundown Laws”, threatening African Americans & Asians to be out of  town after sunset? 
  • Before 1988 the majority of rental housing in Oregon was off-limits to families with children? 
  • Oregon was once known as the most discriminatory state north of the Mason-Dixon line? 
This session explores the ghosts from our history for insights on fair housing challenges today, with a focus on the location where the session takes place.  For those of you who haven’t taken FHCO’s historical bus tour, here’s an opportunity to learn much of the same content on the roots of housing discrimination in our state and how it impacts us today. For rates and details, contact Diane Hess at
Copyright © 2015 Fair Housing Council of Oregon, All rights reserved.

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