Michigan Housing Authority Ending Race and Gender Quotas Ruled Illegal by Attorney General

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The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is changing its race and gender quota policies that former Attorney General Bill Schuette determined were illegal before leaving office.

"MSHDA is reviewing its documents and policies to ensure they comply with the Attorney General opinion," Katie Bach, communications director for the MSHDA, said. "We will work with the Office of Attorney General to ensure that the letter and spirit of the opinion is followed."

The policies Schuette ruled illegal had required contractors to ensure that a certain percentage of the work was done by minority groups and by women.

Bach said that this ruling only affects developments that receive 100 percent of its funds from the MSHDA, but not developments that are only partially funded by the MSHDA. About five percent of MSHDA projects receive 100 percent of its funding from the agency. In total, Bach said that approximately three projects would be impacted, which amounts to about $42 million of the total $630 million of statewide investments.

Projects that receive federal funds have certain federal requirements by which contractors must abide. Projects that receive tax credit financing assistance already have no equal employment opportunity requirements.

These affirmative-action-style policies by public institutions became illegal in Michigan after the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passed as a ballot initiative in 2016, successfully amending the state constitution. The text banned a public institution being able to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Leon Drolet, a Macomb County Commissioner and former state representative, helped lead the initial effort for the ballot proposal and led the effort to get the attorney general’s ruling.

"[The MSHDA’s] illegal use of race/gender quotas undermines efforts to achieve a society where a person's ethnicity and gender is not held against them," Drolet said in a news release. "How can we make progress toward ending race and gender discrimination when our own government embeds race and gender criteria in awarding contracts and benefits? No person should have to worry that their ethnicity or gender will be used against them by their own government."

Drolet told Watchdog.org it is unfortunate that the agencies need someone else to tell them what’s in the state constitution, which is a document they are meant to abide by. He also expressed skepticism that the violation is accidental and said that "they know what they are doing" and "they just hope they don’t get caught."

Many who push for these quotas are well-intentioned people trying to right a past wrong, Drolet said. However, discriminating based on ethnicity and gender does more harm than good, he added.