Sunday, March 13, 2016

Low-Income Renters In Section 8 Complex Use Fair Housing Discrimination Claim As Part Of Lawsuit Alleging That Daily Disruptions Caused By Gentrifying Landlord's Ongoing Renovations, Routine Utilities Shut-Offs Have Disparate Effect On Health & Well-Being Of Disabled Residents

In Austin, Texas, The Austin Chronicle reports:
  • Eight tenants of Fairway Village Apart­ments are suing property owners Sage Apart­ment Communities Inc. and their subsidiary Fairway Village Apartments LLC for unlawful mistreatment and negligence.

    The complex is a project-based Section 8 property, meaning it receives money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to offer reduced rental rates to low-income families. Tina Greene, one of the plaintiffs, said that with no affordable housing alternatives nearby, the tenants had no other choice but to seek justice from the courts. "I think this lawsuit will show them that we are going to fight for our rights," she said.

    The owners began major construction on the property in March 2015 to improve the complex's outdated plumbing system. Residents say they were offered two options to compensate them for the inconvenience: a $2,400 stipend or a temporary stay at a nearby hotel. Some, however, claim that they never received the stipend after requesting it.

    Southwest Housing Com­pli­ance Corporation – the nonprofit subsidiary of the city's Housing Authority which serves as contract administrator for Section 8 projects – investigated the complaint, along with 10 other complaints made against Fairway Village last year, but determined the property management to be in compliance in every case. Greene feels that she and the others who complained have since faced retaliation from property management. "They've singled out those of us who put up a fight," she said.

    Unable to relocate, some families found themselves stuck in a construction zone. Tenants, some elderly or disabled, say they have had to deal with constant noise and random holes surrounding their residence. Greene's mother, Rosemary Martinez, who uses a walker to get around, fell into one of the holes last year. "My leg was bruised and swollen," she said.

    In coordination with the ongoing construction, residents say, the property managers have routinely shut off water and electricity to residents, often without warning.

    These withholdings, said the plaintiffs' attorney Brian McGiverin, constitute illegal discrimination against renters who are disabled, because it has a disproportionate effect on their health and well-being. In addition, the plaintiffs allege that property owners have deferred important repairs, including plumbing and heating maintenance. Some tenants have also spotted rats and cockroaches since construction started. "There's no reason why we should be living like this," Martinez said. "This isn't some poor country, this is the United States! This is the capital of Texas!"
For more, see Section 8 Renters File Suit (Allege illegal discrimination at Fairway Apt. Complex).

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