Active: Federal lawsuit aims to end discrimination based on race

California’s critical housing shortage is well-known. Surging demand continues to outpace supply, and housing remains extremely expensive compared to much of the U.S.

In an effort to tackle home affordability, the San Diego Housing Commission launched a pilot program in 2023 to help middle-income, first-time homebuyers achieve “the dream of homeownership.” The program provides up to $40,000 for down payments and closing costs—among the greatest barriers to first-time homeownership.

For aspiring homeowners who have the wrong skin color, however, this program is no dream at all. It’s a nightmare.

No matter who meets the eligibility requirements for residency, finances, and the like, this program is only for non-white homebuyers. The City provides assistance solely to “Black, Indigenous and People of Color” (BIPOC) households.

San Diego’s skyrocketing real estate costs don’t discriminate—they price people of all races out of owning a home. This includes members of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), a nonprofit advocacy organization founded to defend the principle of equal rights in government. CFER has members who dream of owning a home in San Diego and would fully qualify for the city’s program if race weren’t a factor.

It’s wrong for the government to provide benefits on the basis of race. Moreover, it’s unconstitutional.

The equal protection guarantee of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals from government discrimination due to arbitrary classifications like race. San Diego’s discrimination is not only plainly unconstitutional, it is also unjust.

If the City is concerned about home affordability, it should address the constraints in the housing supply. Assisting first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs may help some people afford a home but will do little to address the overall cost of housing. (A better way would be to ease restrictions that make it costly and time-consuming to build new housing.)

If San Diego must provide these benefits, however, they cannot do it at the expense of equal opportunity. Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation at no charge, CFER is fighting back with a federal lawsuit challenging San Diego’s discriminatory housing program to restore equal treatment for all first-time homebuyers, regardless of race.

What’s At Stake?

  • San Diego cannot use race to decide who gets access to government benefits. First-time homebuyers are no exception. Racial discrimination is not only unjust but also violates the bedrock American principle of equality before the law.

Case Timeline

March 12, 2024
United States District Court for the Southern District of California