Building better neighborhoods

Last week was a big one for the Supreme Court, what with the legalization of same-sex marriage and its upholding of the Affordable Care Act.

The justices also decided another crucial case, with its June 25 ruling to uphold a key component of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The decision in the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project preserves a 40-year-plus safeguard against housing discrimination that allows plaintiffs to challenge discriminatory housing policies—without the burden of proving that such discrimination is intentional.

The case originated from a 2009 lawsuit filed by the Inclusive Communities Project, a Dallas nonprofit that promotes racially and economically diverse communities. The ICP sued the state of Texas for its distribution of low-income-housing federal tax credits: According to the lawsuit, the TDHCA allocated the majority of affordable-housing tax credits to poorer minority neighborhoods while denying credits to similar developments in affluent, predominantly white communities.

Such policies are harmful, the ICP said, because they perpetuate racial segregation. Five of the Supreme Court justices agreed.

“The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act's continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling's majority opinion.

The victory is significant. In short, the ruling enforces the Fair Housing Act's decree that state and local governments may not spend federal housing money in a manner that allows them to sidestep racially integrated neighborhoods in favor of subsidized housing in poor, blighted ghettos.

It's about equality and opportunity.

It's about building better, diverse neighborhoods—a better way of life—for everyone.