In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court has handed cities across America a weapon against unfair housing practices by banks. The lawsuit was filed by the city of Miami, Florida in 2016, but stems from an initial case against two national banks in 2013. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court with Justice Clarence Thomas, delivering the dissenting opinion.
Attorneys for the city of Miami successfully argued that the two banks named in the lawsuit engaged in systematic discrimination by pushing minorities with creditworthiness, equal to those of Caucasian customers, into subprime mortgages in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This ensured that minorities would pay higher mortgage rates, resulting in higher default rates. The conclusion is that the banks were setting up minorities in the Miami community to default at higher rates than Caucasians of equal income and credit scores.
In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with the arguments presented by the city of Miami. These are included in the opinion that the unfair practices,
Miami claimed that the banks had to have known that their practices would result in heightened foreclosure rates. The result of these foreclosures was the 2008 – 2009 housing market collapse, which caused housing prices to plummet. Many cities, such as Miami, derive revenue from property taxes and sales. With the collapse of the housing market, many cities have lost revenue and have filed bankruptcy. Three justices disagreed with the majority largely on the basis that although the FHA was established to eliminate unfair housing practices, the discrimination in that law describes practices against any person. The dissent argued that because the city was not directly representing its residents and no individual has brought a discrimination lawsuit, the claim is not valid under the FHA.
Many cities surrounding Philadelphia, and throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have suffered similarly because of the housing crisis brought on by these discriminatory practices. Contact us online to arrange a consultation with one of our Pennsylvania civil rights lawyers, or call Williams Cedar at 215-557-0099. We have offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill, New Jersey to help serve our clients across the nation.