Fair housing laws just got fairer

It got crowded out of the news by the blockbuster decisions on health care (issued the same day) and same-sex marriage (issued the following day), but an important Supreme Court ruling on a Texas housing case also reverberated widely — and showed a more liberal side to the court.

The case centered on a challenge brought by a Texas housing nonprofit to that state’s housing agency. The nonprofit charged that the state office was violating the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act by providing too many housing subsidies in predominantly black neighborhoods. The Supreme Court upheld a lower ruling that the action violated the federal statute because its impact was to further residential segregation, even if that was not the explicit intent of the policies. As in the same-sex marriage case, Justice Anthony Kennedy proved to be the decisive swing vote in a 5-4 ruling. Some say the “disparate impact” ruling was fairly narrow and doesn’t spell the end of efforts to weaken the law, but it was seen as a victory nonetheless for efforts to strengthen federal fair housing law.

Even more significant than the court ruling, however, may be an Obama administration regulatory move last week. A New York Times editorial on Sunday said new rules the administration issued under the Fair Housing Act put state and local housing agencies on notice that they must be taking steps that “affirmatively further” efforts to combat residential segregation.

“For the new rules to be effective, federal officials need to make clear that local governments can lose federal housing aid if they persist in dumping subsidized housing into depressed, racially isolated communities instead of putting more of it in integrated areas that offer better schools and job opportunities,” said the editorial.

That might apply to whether housing goes in cities or in more affluent suburbs such as Newton, whose liberal leaders have come down with a case of the vapors over proposals for a handful of affordable housing units along their leafy lanes. But the new rules also could pertain to whether efforts are made within a municipality to promote greater residential desegregation.

That will be a challenge for Mayor Marty Walsh as he looks to make good on his vow to have 53,000 new units of housing built in Boston by 2030, 20,000 of which are to be targeted for households earning $50,000 to $125,000.  Not that any reminder was needed, but a map published by the Globe today, based on work by a Northeastern University grad student, shows how starkly segregated the city’s neighborhoods are by a number of economic variables. Race closely tracks many of these variables. In Boston, as in many places, it’s always been easier to, in the Times‘s words, “dump” subsidized housing in neighborhoods that already have plenty of it. Changing that equation will be a huge test for the city.


The State House press gets free office space and parking, with one exception. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey, in a letter to lawmakers, urges them to update the Public Records Law. (Associated Press)

A Herald editorial urges the Legislature to take up further MBTA reforms beyond those included in the 2016 budget agreement, including ridding the agency of the limitations of binding arbitration and rules over fare increases.


Developer Josh Burr is looking to remake a key corner of Lafayette Street in Salem. (Salem News)


Ron Cogliano, the president of the Merit Construction Alliances, says Boston 2024 shouldn’t go union-only. (CommonWealth)


The New York Times spotlights the recent firing of the commander of the female Marines Corps boot camp, an action that some say is a microcosm of the branch’s resistance to gender integration.

European leaders say they have reached an agreement on a bailout with Greece that would require the country to initiate a number of austerity measures more stringent than Greek voters had rejected last week. (New York Times)


Lynn may scrap its preliminary election and save $125,000 because of lack of interest. (The Item)

Gov. Charlie Baker raises $940,000 in his first six months in office, far more than his predecessors. (Associated Press)

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan appears to be running unopposed for a third four-year term while next door in Weymouth, there are now five candidates, including state Sen. Robert Hedlund, vying to oust Mayor Sue Kay. (Patriot Ledger)

In surveying the current 2016 presidential field, where others see a cartoonish buffoon, Joe Fitzgerald sees a strong-willed figure of the kind we are sorely lacking. (Yes, him.) (Boston Herald)

Writing in The New Republic, Heath Carter, a history professor at Valparaiso University, says there’s a conflict between Scott Walker‘s evangelical zeal and his appetite for bashing unions.


About 20 of the country’s most-recognized corporations, including Starbucks, Microsoft, andWalmart, will launch an initiative to find jobs for 100,000 unemployed young people who neither go to school nor work. (New York Times)

Comcast plans to launch a streaming video service called Stream in Boston in the next few months. (Time)

The ice dams and leaks may be thankfully past, but the cost of last winter’s epic storms is now being felt in homeowner insurance premiums, up by about $100 a year for the average Massachusetts home. (Boston Globe)

The Brockton Fair closed Sunday following its 141st and possibly final time with ownerGeorge Carney looking to build a casino on the grounds or possibly develop the land if he doesn’t win the license. (The Enterprise)

Gloucester businesses, the chamber of commerce, and the city team up to launch Discover Gloucester. (Gloucester Times)


More than 6,500 young people are signed up for summer education programs in Boston, about double the number from last year. (Boston Globe)


WBUR takes readers on a tour of a medical marijuana farm in Brockton. 

Health care expert John McDonough does a deep dive on a key Obamacare report. (CommonWealth)

Paul Levy says it’s time for lawyers to begin naming hospital trustees as defendants in malpractice suits as a way to effectuate change for safety. (Not Running a Hospital)


Governing explores whether funny traffic signs, such as “Use yah blinkah,” can save lives.

An audit suggests the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles is very vulnerable to fraud. (Boston Herald)

Former state senator Phil Shea is shaking things up on the Lowell Regional Transit Authority. (The Sun)


CommonWealth explores how Newburyport and Newbury are dealing with climate-change fueled coastal erosion on Plum Island. 

A home energy efficiency executive and a union official say it’s time to lift the solar net metering cap. (CommonWealth)

The harsh winter took its toll on honeybees on Cape Cod. (Cape Cod Times)


Police officials defend a regional SWAT team’s actions. (Eagle-Tribune)

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, in a wide-ranging interview, says he and Mayor Marty Walsh do not intend to turn over to federal officials illegal immigrants charged with minor offenses but will give over custody of those charged with violent crimes and felonies. (Keller@Large)

A new program trains combat veterans to fight child pornography. (Christian Science Monitor)


The Berkshire County NAACP responds to a controversial Berkshire Eagle op-ed that urged African Americans to pull up their pants among other things. CommonWealth surveyed the debate earlier this month.

A former Boston Globe police reporter finds his niche in improving media relations for law enforcement and municipalities. (MassLive)

The federal government is preparing to launch some pilot programs in a bid to improve the release of public records under the Freedom of Information Act. (Huffington Post)