Saturday, June 06, 2015

Local Governments, Municipal/Political Subdivisions Not Immune From Housing Discrimination Allegations As HUD Fair Housing Investigators Target Them, Too

Those targeted with allegations of fair housing violations are not limited to your typical, run-of-the-mill, rank-and-file landlords and condo/homeowner associations, as the following recent news releases from the Department of Housing & Urban Development demonstrate:
  • HUD Reaches Settlement With Ohio Housing Authority: Agreement with the City of Medina Housing Authority resolves discrimination claims against African Americans in the administration of its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. It had a residency preference point system that effectively imposed a residency requirement, thus putting African Americans who did not live or work in Medina County at a disadvantage.
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  • HUD Announces Agreement With Anchorage, Alaska To Lift Housing Restrictions For People With Disabilities: Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska resolves allegations that its zoning laws violated the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws by discriminating against people with disabilities. Specifically, HUD’s complaint alleged the city’s zoning code imposed restrictions on groups with certain disabilities such as maximum occupancy standards and fees which were not imposed on other groups.
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  • HUD Reaches Settlement With Pennsylvania Housing Authority: Agreement with the City of Hazleton Housing Authority resolves claims it violated the housing rights of Spanish-speaking applicants and tenants by requiring them to supply interpreters in order to communicate with housing authority staff and by denying them limited English proficiency services. The case came to HUD’s attention when six Latino families represented by the Community Justice Project, a non-profit public interest law firm serving Pennsylvania, filed a complaint. “When housing authorities accept HUD funding they are obligated to make their programs and services accessible to individuals who have limited English proficiency,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Under the terms of the agreement, the housing authority will provide the Community Justice Project with a monetary settlement of $14,000 that will be distributed among the residents who filed complaints, and $4,000 for attorney’s fees.
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  • HUD And City Of Berlin, New Hampshire Settle Allegations Of Housing Discrimination Against Victims Of Domestic Violence: The agreement settles allegations that the municipality violated the Fair Housing Act when the city of Berlin discriminated against women when it enacted an ordinance requiring landlords to evict tenants cited by police three or more times for “disorderly action” or risk being fined and/or losing their rental license. The ordinance made no exception for victims of domestic violence, which are overwhelmingly women and who needed police assistance. Among a slew of other things, the City of Berlin agreed to amend its ordinance to include language stating that the “…ordinance is not intended to be used against victims of reported incidents of domestic violence.” The city will also modify its definition of “disorderly action” to state that “disorderly action” will not include the actions of victims of reported domestic violence incidents. Payment of monetary damages, penalties, attorney fees, etc. was not required.

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