I’ve got a new piece at Reason on the long-running dispute between the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government of Westchester County in suburban NYC. Claiming that Westchester has failed to follow through on promises of attracting more minority homeowners, HUD is suing the county and wielding funding cutoffs to get it to step up a large commitment to subsidized housing, override town zoning rules, and enact an ordinance forbidding private landlords from turning away Section 8 tenants. The WSJ editorialized yesterday on the subject. Further background: ironic that county is being penalized after seeking to cooperate [Gerald McKinstry, Newsday; Joanne Wallenstein, Scarsdale 10583]; former Democratic county legislator backs county executive Rob Astorino on so-called “source of income” legislation [Journal-News]; similar law already in effect in Washington, D.C. [Examiner]; earlier coverage here, here, etc., and my 2009 City Journal account.
P.S. Shortly after our piece, a Second Circuit panel ruled the county out of compliance. ProPublica, the foundation-supported reporting-and-opinion outfit, has been doing a series of reporting-and-opinion pieces taking the plaintiffs’ side, including this latest.
Between 2006 and 2011 the Iowa Civil Rights Commission engaged in a practice of filing housing discrimination charges against landlords, which it would then settle through “donations” that went directly to the commission rather than the state’s general fund, reports Jason Clayworth at the Des Moines Register. “The requests came after sting operations in which representatives of the commission would, for example, pose as prospective tenants and tell landlords over the phone that they needed a service dog for anxiety reasons and quiz them as to whether a pet deposit would apply to them.”
If you’ll drop Magner v. Gallagher, your case against us before the Supreme Court, we’ll drop this other big case we’ve filed against you, the Department of Justice told the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. And thus the government averted an embarrassing high court opinion reining in some of its most avant-garde lending-discrimination theories [American Banker, Kevin Funnell/Bank Lawyer's Blog, WSJ, Hans Bader, Ted Frank]
Kevin Funnell at Bank Lawyers Blog is a bit cynical about the Department of Justice’s headline-ready threats of enforcement action:
[The DOJ claims] appear to be based upon consumer advocates’ claims that the bank takes better care of foreclosed-upon real estate it owns in neighborhoods where white people live than it does in areas where minorities live. I suspect that the bank will assert that (a) any rational real estate owner is only going to invest money in a piece of real estate where the owner has a realistic chance of recouping that investment through a higher sales price, (b) that such recoupment decisions are made on a property-by-property basis based upon objective data like recent comparable sales prices and fair market valuations, (c) that the economic reality-driven facts of life are that many more such properties are located in majority-white neighborhoods than in minority neighborhoods, and (d) there has been no intent to discriminate, merely to minimize losses…. As we’ve previously noted, the DOJ is on a jihad against lenders based upon “disparate impact” theories that the DOJ knows, in its heart-of-hearts, are highly fragile when exposed to the light of logic, the kind of logic applied by the US Supreme Court. Justice will likely pursue Wells Fargo and try to squeeze some dough out of it before the highest court eventually shuts down this racket.
The Ninth Circuit properly vindicates the constitutional principle of freedom of association in a clash with housing discrimination law. [Rigel Oliveri, Washington Post]
In 2005 Jack and Sandra Biegel purchased a unit in Long Island’s Woodbury Gardens, which had a no-pet policy. The next year they acquired a miniature schnauzer to assist with Sandra’s multiple ailments, which included depression and strained breathing. She died the next year. Now the federal government is taking Jack’s side against the co-op in its effort to enforce its rules. [NY Daily News]
Steve Malanga on New Jersey’s perennially activist Supreme Court [City Journal]. We’ve periodically discussed the court’s lamentable jurisprudence in its Abbott (school finance redistribution) and Mount Laurel (towns given quotas to build low-income housing) decisions. The court has also nullified constitutional limitations on borrowing by the state.
The Justice Department has sued the University of Nebraska-Kearney and its regents and employees for allegedly “denying reasonable accommodation requests by students with psychological or emotional disabilities seeking to live with emotional assistance animals in university housing.” [Disability Law]
More/update: Inside Higher Ed.
A woman “posted an advertisement for a Christian roommate on her local church’s bulletin board.” Someone who saw it denounced her anonymously to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan which proceeded to file a civil rights complaint against her to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Nancy Haynes, executive director of the housing center, calls the woman’s notice “a clear violation on its face;” while the Fair Housing Act does not subject actual choice of roommates to penalties, it forbids advertisements expressing a preference.
The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan might ask for an initial reimbursement of $300 for time spent on the issue and training for the woman, in addition to pulling down the ad, Haynes said.
“Our interest really lies in her getting some training so that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
[WOOD via Amy Alkon]
The New York Post has now picked up a slightly shortened version of my City Journal piece on the housing lawsuit that contributed to a voter revolt in Westchester (cross-posted from Point of Law).
P.S. The Weekly Standard “Scrapbook” feature discusses the piece, as do John Derbyshire and Ron Coleman. And reader Paul Rath writes: “We face the same issue at the other end of the state, near Buffalo. Unfortunately, we have the same race-baiting and over-simplified arguments in our press here as well.” For more on how towns expose themselves to litigation if they attempt to earmark sub-market-rate housing for local residents or workers, see this Oct. 23 New York Times report on Connecticut.