Supreme Court may weaken housing bias cases

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appears bitterly divided in a debate over a decades-old strategy for fighting housing discrimination.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues expressed serious doubts Wednesday that the Fair Housing Act can be used to ban housing or lending practices without any proof of intent to discriminate.

The court’s four liberal justices defended the use of so-called “disparate impact” lawsuits that allege even race-neutral policies can have a harmful effect on minority groups.

Civil rights groups have predicted the court took up the case to knock out such lawsuits. Justice Antonin Scalia asked tough questions of both sides.

The case involves an appeal from Texas officials accused of awarding federal tax credits in a way that steered low-income housing to mostly black neighborhoods.