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Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Resources

Considering Disparate Impact

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the application of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. This decision acknowledged that discrimination is not always overt and intentional but still can have substantial consequences.

Disparate Impact is a legal doctrine under Fair Housing that states a policy may be seen as discriminatory if it has a disproportionately adverse effect on groups protected by the Act. The intent does not have to be discriminative; disparate impact looks at the effect.

In your community, do planning and zoning policies create a “disparate impact” on certain people or groups?

Questions you might want to consider locally:

  • Does new development primarily only offer studios or one-bedroom units, not providing homes for families with children?
  • Does new development only contain townhouses with stairs, making the housing challenging for people with physical disabilities?
  • Are affordable housing units and programs advertised widely to assure that people of all races and national origin could apply?

More on recent Supreme Court findings pertaining to disparate impact can be found here.

Fair Housing Resources and Guides on Implementation

Navigating compliance with Fair Housing laws in your community can be complex. Below are two excellent resources to assist planners, planning and zoning board members, advocates, and others in considerations of Fair Housing as they work to create new housing opportunities:

Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC)

EOHLC provides extensive state-related information regarding fair housing considerations on their Fair Housing and Civil Rights Information page.

Fair Housing guidelines must be followed when affordable units are available for lease or purchase, and it is important for communities to understand their role and responsibilities. To access the Fair Housing section of EOHLC’s 40B Comprehensive Permit Guidelines, which covers the specific regulations regarding resident selection in affordable developments, click here and go to Chapter 3.


The Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s (MAPC) Fair Housing Toolkit brings together available resources to help appointed and elected leaders, municipal planning, housing and development officials, developers, citizen board members, and other volunteers understand how to affirmatively further fair housing. The Toolkit provides guidance on implementing initiatives and complying with fair housing laws in your community, broken out by sections.

Note: The toolkit is in the process of being updated.

Visit MAPC's Fair Housing Resources page for additional information and updates.