Supreme Court: You can get sued for segregated housing, even if the segregation isn't deliberate

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said certain housing policies that put minorities at a disadvantage, even if they aren’t expressly intended to discriminate, can be challenged in court.

The court sided with a community organization alleging that Texas’ housing department had improperly clustered Section 8 housing in low-income, high-crime areas — essentially preserving the segregation that federal housing law was designed to end.

Texas had argued that the lawsuit was invalid, and the question before the high court was whether the Fair Housing Act — a law intended to outlaw racial discrimination in housing — allows people to sue over practices that might not be explicitly discriminatory, but end up hurting minorities disproportionately.

Equal-housing advocates say such lawsuits are a critical tool to make sure housing policies work. If the point of Section 8 housing is to give families access to the kinds of community resources that can help them break out of poverty, they argue, they have to be able to challenge policies that undermine that goal.