WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and fifteen of their Senate colleagues in submitting an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court asserting that, under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), the City of Miami has standing to sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America for their predatory lending practices. The City of Miami originally sued the banks for targeting underserved minority consumers – offering predatory loans and then refusing to extend refinancing terms equal to those issued to white borrowers. In total, thirty-nine former and current Members of Congress joined the amicus brief.
“Discriminatory housing practices – like the predatory lending employed by Wells Fargo and Bank of America – weaken our communities, infringe upon consumers’ basic civil rights, and violate our most fundamental principle of fairness and equality under the law,” Blumenthal said. “I fought to protect homeowners under the Fair Housing Act as Connecticut’s Attorney General, and I am proud to join so many of my colleagues in the Senate today in continuing the fight against despicable discrimination and predatory practices in the housing industry.”
“Strong enforcement of the Fair Housing Act has been critical in the fight to end rampant housing discrimination,” said Brown. “Congress passed the Fair Housing Act with broad standing provisions, understanding that not all consumers have the resources to successfully advocate on their own behalf. I am hopeful the Supreme Court will defend the right of cities to protect vulnerable residents against predatory loans.”
“Far too many families have fallen prey to the inexcusable injustice of housing discrimination. It pains me to see families today suffering the same mistreatment my parents faced when moving to New Jersey over forty years ago,” said Booker. “We have a moral obligation to enforce the Fair Housing Act and defend consumers against this civil rights violation so that no one is denied the right to pursue the American Dream. I joined this amicus brief to urge the highest court in the land to take a stand to protect Americans against unfair lending practices.”
The amicus examines the legislative history of the FHA and the brief states that the original FHA, in an effort to provide strong enforcement for its fair housing provisions, allows a range of potential plaintiffs to bring forth suits. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed in Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood the FHA’s broad definition of who qualifies as an “aggrieved person.” Congress amended the 1968 Act in 1988 to reflect that ruling and, in the process, rejected attempts to narrow the definition of an “aggrieved person” and strengthened the Act’s private enforcement provisions. Several of the Members of Congress who signed onto the brief participated in the debates leading up to the passage of the FHA or its 1988 amendments, including former U.S. Sen. Walter F. Mondale, co-sponsor of the original Act.
The text of the amicus brief is here.