6th Cir: Regulatory Law, FHA Housing: Graoch Assoc #33 v. Louisville & Jefferson County (6th Cir. 11/21/2007)

Graoch Assoc #33 v. Louisville & Jefferson County
    Western District of Kentucky at Louisville
Nov. 21, 2007

BOGGS, Chief Judge. The Section 8 voucher program is a voluntary program through which the federal government provides rent subsidies to eligible low-income families who rent from participating landlords. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a). The Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII, bars discrimination “against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling . . . because of race . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). In this case, Graoch, the owner of Autumn Run Apartments in Louisville, seeks a declaratory judgment that it did not violate the FHA by withdrawing from the Section 8 program. Its claim presents two questions regarding the interplay between Section 8 and the FHA. First, can a landlord’s withdrawal from the Section 8 program ever violate the FHA solely because it has a disparate impact on members of a protected class? Second, if so, what are the standards for measuring disparate impact?

The district court answered the first question in the negative and therefore granted summary judgment in favor of Graoch without reaching the second question. We reach the same final result, but in a different way. Disagreeing with the position taken by the Second and Seventh Circuits, we hold that a plaintiff can, in principle, rely on evidence of some instances of disparate impact to show that a landlord violated the Fair Housing Act by withdrawing from Section 8. We also hold, however, that in this case the Metro Human Relations Commission did not even allege facts making the statistical comparison necessary to state a prima facie case of disparate-impact discrimination. Consequently, we affirm.

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