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Toppling Barriers to Opportunity
Talking about HUD’s Disparate Impact Fair Housing Regulations

Download talking points here (PDF)
READ ALSO: The Opportunity Agenda Applauds HUD's New Fair Housing Rule 

On February 8th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new regulations to better enforce and apply the Fair Housing Act across our nation. The regulations explain, in particular, that policies and practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect, known as “disparate impact,” violate the Act. This memo offers communications guidance for talking about the regulations, fair housing, and disparate impact with a range of audiences. It is based on available opinion research and practical experience.

The Fair Housing Narrative 

Like other fair housing matters, these regulations should be framed in terms of America’s interest in protecting equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination for everyone, a responsibility that benefits all of us and is crucial to a prosperous future in an increasingly diverse nation and the world. We should describe as common sense the notion that all forms of avoidable discrimination should be toppled to allow more fair and effective approaches that expand opportunity for everyone. And we should make visible the structural and institutional barriers to fair housing, like unreasonable zoning restrictions, that limit the options of all Americans while especially excluding people of color.

Sample Messages:

  • “This rule is an important step forward for equal opportunity. It makes clear that we must topple unnecessary obstacles to fair housing, and ensure that what you look like, what accent you have, or whether you have children is no barrier to where you may call home.”
  • “This is about all kids having a chance to live in a neighborhood with good schools and resources to thrive. It’s about all families—whatever they look like and wherever they come from—having an equal opportunity to seek a home and fair treatment in any neighborhood. And it’s about the diverse and thriving communities that are part of America’s strength in an interconnected country and world.
  • “If a policy unnecessarily excludes people of a particular racial or ethnic group, or families with children, for example, it’s common sense that it should be set aside in favor of one that serves everyone’s needs fairly, effectively, and without discrimination. That’s been the law for forty-five years, and it’s appropriate that it will continue to be the law.”
  • “Governments have a responsibility to ensure equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination for everyone. That requires watching how different policies play out on the ground. When there’s evidence that a particular policy—like an antiquated zoning ordinance—is likely to be discriminatory, there’s a responsibility to reexamine or abandon that process and find one that’s fair and effective.
  • “The disparate impact doctrine safeguards the right to a fair shot for everyone. Where you live determines where you work and how you get there, your access to healthcare, and the school your child attends. Unfortunately, policies and practices still exist – intentionally and unintentionally – that keep far too many people out of housing they can afford simply because of who they are.”
  • “A thoughtless housing policy can be as damaging to a community’s residents as a willful scheme.Policies that allow housing discrimination to continue, whatever their intent, must be replaced with ones that do not. We all win, and our economy grows, when housing is open and available to all.”

A Longer Version:

“Equal opportunity is a bedrock American principle, and critical to our national success. But despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, significant obstacles to equal opportunity still exist, particularly when it comes to housing and homeownership. There are still some real estate agents, landlords, and others who practice intentional discrimination against people of color, families with children, people with disabilities, and others. But more often these days, local governments and real estate corporations engage in unjustified and unnecessary policies with the practical effect of discriminating against many well-qualified home seekers. Some cities and towns, for example, prohibit the building of smaller homes or apartments that working people could afford, which in many places excludes most people of color. That means that many people are unfairly and unnecessarily cut off from opportunities like quality schools, jobs, and business possibilities. That’s bad for all of us, and we applaud the Department of Housing and Urban Development,

To read more, download our talking points memo below: