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What the Supreme Court's Housing Decision Could Mean For Louisville

Affordable housing got a boost in this year's city spending plan.
Affordable housing got a boost in this year's city spending plan.

The Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday that people affected by discriminatory housing practices can sue even if the bias wasn't intended will likely influence fair housing practices in Louisville, local advocates say.

Carolyn Miller-Cooper, executive director of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, called the ruling "a very important decision."

"Now there's legal justification to look at where housing is going up and the disparate impact it will have on protected classes," she said.

The ruling will require the housing sector to examine "everything we do in a fair housing lens," Miller-Cooper said.

Housing officials and advocates will now have to take a closer look at where tax credits are being granted in Louisville, she said.

"It's going to give teeth to the practices that local and state agencies are already trying to do," said Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition.

Louisville Metro Housing Authority, the Kentucky Housing Corp. and other agencies were already working to remove the barriers to fair housing, including policies that lead to unintentional discrimination, Hinko said.

The ruling, she said, provides a stronger set of tools to move those efforts forward.

And the Supreme Court decision will likely affect more than the granting of housing development tax credits, she said.

Lending practices, the granting of mortgages and zoning policies will also going to be up for scrutiny as a result of the court's decision, Hinko said.

Louisville housing officials will need to take a step back and examine how mortgages and credit are applied regarding housing; currently, major differences exist in Louisville regarding access to mortgages, affordable housing and certain areas of the community, Hinko said.

Hinko said local housing advocates are focusing on reforming the city's zoning policy.

"The way we have zoned obviously has had a disparate impact on people in protected classes," she said.

People in protected classes, including minorities and people with disabilities, are concentrated in certain areas of Louisville, she said.

For example, a 2010 report from the Metropolitan Housing Commission found that nearly 30 percent of residents with disabilities live in northwest Louisville. About 10 percent of these residents live in northeast Louisville.

"We'll have to step up our game and realize that we have segregation and segregation is related to zoning," Hinko said.

Even if some policy areas "seem bland," they can have a huge impact on fair housing, she said.

When reached for comment Thursday, the Kentucky Housing Corp. pointed to a 2014 report showing that at least one state court decision mirrored Thursday's Supreme Court's decision.

The 5-4 ruling on Thursday stems from a 2008 case involving the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and The Inclusive Communities Project.

In that case, the non-profit Inclusive Communities Project sued the state agency, arguing the agency allocated tax credits to low income housing developers in a racially segregated manner. The group accused the agency of disproportionately granting housing credits in minority areas of Dallas and denying credits in white areas of the city, according to SCOTUSblog.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.