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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Supreme Court to Decide Fair Housing Act Challenge to St. Paul’s Housing Code

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert in Magner v. Gallagher.  The case involves a challenge by rental property owners to the City of St. Paul’s housing code that imposes  obligations on landlords to maintain and repair rental properties.  The rental property owners claimed that the ordinance has a disparate impact on minorities because the housing code requirements will increase their costs and decrease the number of rentals available to low-income households.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the disparate impact suit to move forward under the Fair Housing Act. 

The Supreme Court will be asked to resolve the following two issues:  (1) whether disparate impact claims are recognized under the Fair Housing Act; and if so (2) what test should be used to analyze these claims.  

The Supreme Court had previously granted leave to file an amicus brief by the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA).  IMLA's brief argues that the Supreme Court should resolve the conflict between the various Circuit Courts.  Specifically, IMLA argues that the Eighth Circuit's decision in Magner conflicts with the holdings in similar cases decided in the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, and that plaintiffs' disparate impact claim brought under the Fair Housing Act would have been rejected based on the tests adopted by the other Circuits.

This case should be closely watched by municipalities that have enacted similar rental housing ordinances.

UPDATE 2/14/2012:  The City withdrew its appeal last week - see updated post on 2/14/2012. 


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