Fair Housing in the United States: A Legal Response to Municipal Intransigence
J. Mark Powell | 1997 U. Ill. L. Rev.
Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, rising housing costs and enduring racism continue to limit the availability of affordable housing to minority families. Commentators agree that thus far both judicial and legislative approaches to the problem have proven ineffective. Legal challenges to discriminatory government action, whether based on the Equal Protection Clause or Title VIII itself, have rarely been upheld, due in large part to the difficulty of proving official discrimination. Meanwhile, state initiatives designed to ensure the construction of affordable housing, although promising in some respects, have virtually ignored the central underpinning of the affordable housing shortage--racial discrimination.
After pointing to the inadequacy of existing avenues of relief, the author critiques two major proposals offered by commentators to remedy the affordable housing shortage: federal fair share legislation and mobility grants. Finding that the former proposal unnecessarily constrains local autonomy and that the latter ineffectively challenges municipal intransigence, the author concludes that a "middle ground" approach would most effectively resolve the affordable housing problem. He thus recommends increased federal oversight of the development and implementation of state and local affordable housing efforts, with significant discretion left to state and local governments in setting affordable housing targets and allocating corresponding housing quotas to municipalities. Additionally, to ease the burden of proving official discrimination on fair housing claimants, the author proposes relaxing the pattern or practice requirement of Title VIII suits.